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Global Biogeochemical Cycles

The 2008 Emiliania huxleyi bloom along the Patagonian Shelf: Ecology, biogeochemistry, and cellular calcification

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Abstract

[1] Coccolithophore blooms are significant contributors to the global production and export of calcium carbonate (calcite). The Patagonian Shelf is a site of intense annual coccolithophore blooms during austral summer. During December 2008, we made intensive measurements of the ecology, biogeochemistry, and physiology of a coccolithophore bloom. High numbers of Emiliania huxleyi cells and detached coccoliths (>1 × 103 mL−1 and >10 × 103 mL−1, respectively), high particulate inorganic carbon concentrations (>10 mmol C m−2), and high calcite production (up to 7.3 mmol C m−2 d−1) all characterized bloom waters. The bloom was dominated by the low-calcite-containing B/C morphotype of Emiliania huxleyi, although a small (<10 µm) Southern Ocean diatom of the genus Fragilariopsis was present in almost equal numbers (0.2–2 × 103 mL−1). Estimates of Fragilariopsis contributions to chlorophyll, phytoplankton carbon, and primary production were >30%, similar to estimates for E. huxleyi and indicative of a significant role for this diatom in bloom biogeochemistry. Cell-normalized calcification rates, when corrected for a high number of nonactive cells, were relatively high and when normalized to estimates of coccolith calcite indicate excessive coccolith production in the declining phase of the bloom. We find that low measures of calcite and calcite production relative to other blooms in the global ocean indicate that the dominance of the B/C morphotype may lead to overall lower calcite production. Globally, this suggests that morphotype composition influences regional bloom inventories of carbonate production and export and that climate-induced changes in morphotype biogeography could affect the carbon cycle.

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