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|Dynamics of phytoplankton communities during late summer around the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula
|Mendes, Carlos Rafael Borges
de Souza, Márcio Silva
Garcia, Virginia Maria Tavano
Leal, Miguel Costa
Garcia, Carlos Alberto Eiras
|The composition and distribution of phytoplankton assemblages around the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula were studied during two summer cruises (February/March 2008 and 2009). Water samples were collected for HPLC/CHEMTAX pigment and microscopic analysis. A great spatial variability in chlorophyll a (Chl a) was observed in the study area: highest levels in the vicinity of the James Ross Island (exceeding 7 mg m−3 in 2009), intermediate values (0.5 to 2 mg m−3) in the Bransfield Strait, and low concentrations in the Weddell Sea and Drake Passage (below 0.5 mg m−3). Phytoplankton assemblages were generally dominated by diatoms, especially at coastal stations with high Chl a concentration, where diatom contribution was above 90% of total Chl a. Nanoflagellates, such as cryptophytes and/or Phaeocystis antarctica, replaced diatoms in open-ocean areas (e.g., Weddell Sea). Many species of peridinin-lacking autotrophic dinoflagellates (e.g., Gymnodinium spp.) were also important to total Chl a biomass at well-stratified stations of Bransfield Strait. Generally, water column structure was the most important environmental factor determining phytoplankton communities’ biomass and distribution. The HPLC pigment data also allowed the assessment of different physiological responses of phytoplankton to ambient light variation. The present study provides new insights about the dynamics of phytoplankton in an undersampled region of the Southern Ocean highly susceptible to global climate change.
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