Horizontal Transport and the Distribution of Nutrients in the Coastal Transition Zone off Northern California: Effects on Primary Production, Phytoplankton Biomass and Species Composition
Chavez, Francisco P.
Barber, Richard T.
Ramp, Steven R.
Stanton, Timothy P.
Rojas de Mendiola, Blanca
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Conductivity-temperature-depth surveys during 1988 encountered strong baroclinic jets that were evident in acoustic Doppler current profiler and hydrographic data. During June and July 1988 a filament with high surface nitrate, high chlorophyll, abundant populations of neritic centric diatoms, and higher rates of primary production was evident perpendicular to the coast between Point Arena and Point Reyes. However, the high-nutrient and phytoplankton regions were not in the baroclinic jets but were south and inshore of them. Surface water transported offshore by the strong baroclinic jets was found to have relatively low nutrient content, suggesting that the jets themselves do not cany significant levels of coastally upwelled, high-nutrient water to the ocean interior. The low nutrient and salinity content of the jet suggests that the water originated several hundred kilometers upstream. Although the jets themselves do not appear to transport significant levels of nutrients directly from the coastal regime to the oceanic regime, dynamic processes associated with a meandering jet are likely responsible for high surface nutrients found several hundred kilometers offshore. Processes such as upwelling along the southern edge of the seaward jet result in significant enrichment of the coastal transition zone and in large blooms of neritic diatoms. During 1988 the high-nutrient, high-phytoplankton filament was present when the survey sequence began but then decayed after a month. The surface and subsurface nitrate fields were coherent with the dynamic topography field throughout the survey sequence; however, the surface and integrated chlorophyll fields were coherent only through the first two surveys. A decrease in phytoplankton biomass began during the third survey coincident with physical changes which occurred in that time frame: (1) an intensification of the undercurrent and (2) changes in the surface circulation from predominantly offshore to predominantly longshore. Understanding the processes responsible for the uncoupling between biology and physics is paramount for realistic biological models of this region.
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