Background nutrient concentration determines phytoplankton bloom response to marine heatwaves
Hayashida, H and Matear, RJ and Strutton, PG, Background nutrient concentration determines phytoplankton bloom response to marine heatwaves, Global Change Biology, 26, (9) pp. 4800-4811. ISSN 1354-1013 (2020) [Refereed Article]
Ocean temperature extreme events such as marine heatwaves are expected to intensify in coming decades due to anthropogenic global warming. Reported ecological and economic impacts of marine heatwaves include coral bleaching, local extinction of mangrove and kelp forests and elevated mortalities of invertebrates, fishes, seabirds and marine mammals. In contrast, little is known about the impacts of marine heatwaves on microbes that regulate biogeochemical processes in the ocean. Here we analyse the daily output of a near‐global ocean physical–biogeochemical model simulation to characterize the impacts of marine heatwaves on phytoplankton blooms in 23 tropical and temperate oceanographic regions from 1992 to 2014. The results reveal regionally coherent anomalies of shallower surface mixing layers and lower surface nitrate concentrations during marine heatwaves. These anomalies exert counteracting effects on phytoplankton growth through light and nutrient limitation. Consequently, the responses of phytoplankton blooms are mixed, but can be related to the background nutrient conditions of the study regions. The blooms are weaker during marine heatwaves in nutrient‐poor waters, whereas in nutrient‐rich waters, the heatwave blooms are stronger. The corresponding analyses of sea‐surface temperature, chlorophyll a and nitrate based on satellite observations and in situ climatology support this relationship between phytoplankton bloom anomalies and background nitrate concentration. Given that nutrient‐poor waters are projected to expand globally in the 21st century, this study suggests increased occurrence of weaker blooms during marine heatwaves in coming decades, with implications for higher trophic levels and biogeochemical cycling of key elements.
biogeochemistry, climate extreme, marine heatwave, model simulation, oceanography, phytoplankton, satellite