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Widespread phytoplankton blooms triggered by 2019–2020 Australian wildfires

Citation

Tang, W and Llort, J and Weis, J and Perron, MMG and Basart, S and Li, Z and Sathyendranath, S and Jackson, T and Sanz Rodriguez, E and Proemse, B and Bowie, AR and Schallenberg, C and Strutton, PG and Matear, R and Cassar, N, Widespread phytoplankton blooms triggered by 2019-2020 Australian wildfires, Nature, 597, (7876) pp. 370-375. ISSN 0028-0836 (2021) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

© 2021 Springer Nature Limited

DOI: doi:10.1038/s41586-021-03805-8

Abstract

Droughts and climate-change-driven warming are leading to more frequent and intense wildfires1,2,3, arguably contributing to the severe 2019–2020 Australian wildfires4. The environmental and ecological impacts of the fires include loss of habitats and the emission of substantial amounts of atmospheric aerosols5,6,7. Aerosol emissions from wildfires can lead to the atmospheric transport of macronutrients and bio-essential trace metals such as nitrogen and iron, respectively8,9,10. It has been suggested that the oceanic deposition of wildfire aerosols can relieve nutrient limitations and, consequently, enhance marine productivity11,12, but direct observations are lacking. Here we use satellite and autonomous biogeochemical Argo float data to evaluate the effect of 2019–2020 Australian wildfire aerosol deposition on phytoplankton productivity. We find anomalously widespread phytoplankton blooms from December 2019 to March 2020 in the Southern Ocean downwind of Australia. Aerosol samples originating from the Australian wildfires contained a high iron content and atmospheric trajectories show that these aerosols were likely to be transported to the bloom regions, suggesting that the blooms resulted from the fertilization of the iron-limited waters of the Southern Ocean. Climate models project more frequent and severe wildfires in many regions1,2,3. A greater appreciation of the links between wildfires, pyrogenic aerosols13, nutrient cycling and marine photosynthesis could improve our understanding of the contemporary and glacial–interglacial cycling of atmospheric CO2 and the global climate system.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:wildfire, phytoplankton bloom, Australian wildfires
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Physical oceanography
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Understanding climate change not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Llort, J (Dr Joan Llort Jordi)
UTAS Author:Weis, J (Mr Jakob Weis)
UTAS Author:Perron, MMG (Miss Morgane Perron)
UTAS Author:Sanz Rodriguez, E (Dr Estrella Sanz Rodriguez)
UTAS Author:Proemse, B (Dr Bernadette Proemse)
UTAS Author:Bowie, AR (Professor Andrew Bowie)
UTAS Author:Schallenberg, C (Dr Christina Schallenberg)
UTAS Author:Strutton, PG (Professor Peter Strutton)
ID Code:146814
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:37
Deposited By:Oceans and Cryosphere
Deposited On:2021-09-28
Last Modified:2022-08-24
Downloads:0

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