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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Phytoplankton dynamics in the northeast subarctic Pacific during the 1998 El Niño, the 1999 La Niña and 2000 with special consideration to the role of coccolithophores and diatoms Lipsen, Michael Simon


Phytoplankton dynamics and chemical characteristics of the euphotic zone were measured from 1998-2000 (an El Niño/La Niña cycle) at the 5 major stations along Line P. Near-shelf and offshore stations exhibited low seasonality in chlorophyll and moderate seasonality in particulate organic carbon (POC) production. During the 1998 El Niño, June was characterized by low chlorophyll and POC productivity due to nitrate depletion. In contrast, during the 1999 La Niña, and in 2000, higher POC productivity and nitrate occurred in June. During 1999, chlorophyll and POC productivity were similar to 1998 in late summer. Near-shelf biomass was highest in June and lowest in Feb. for the near-shelf stations. High nitrate, low chlorophyll (HNLC) stations had the highest chlorophyll in Feb. followed by June. The coccolithophore assemblage was usually numerically dominated by Emiliania huxleyi, particularly in June. Along the transect, coccolithophore abundance was much higher in June during the 1998 El Niño than in the 1999 La Niña, with Aug./Sept. abundance of both years being very low. Higher abundances were measured along the transect in June and the late summer of 2000 with sporadic ‘blooms’ of >1000 cells ml⁻¹ at some stations. Particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) production was high along the transect during June 1998, and low during both winters, June 1999 and during late summers of 1998 and 1999. There was an increase in diatom biomass and >20 µm POC production during the 1998 El Niño, specifically in the farthest offshore HNLC stations, yet diatoms were rarely found to dominate total phytoplankton biomass or production. However, there were some sporadic examples of anomalously high diatom biomass (carbon and abundance) as well as >20 µm POC production, specifically at P12 in Aug./Sept 2000. The same major diatom species were found throughout Line P (near-shelf, P16, and HNLC). Integrated silica production measured by ³²Si ranged from 0.2 to 4.7 mmol Si m⁻² d⁻¹ between 1999-2000. Silicic acid and nitrate were never limiting at all stations in Feb. and generally increased in concentration along Line P during all seasons.

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