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Impact of Lagrangian sea surface temperature variability on Southern Ocean phytoplankton community growth rates


Zaiss, J and Boyd, PW and Doney, SC and Havenhand, JN and Levine, NM, Impact of Lagrangian sea surface temperature variability on Southern Ocean phytoplankton community growth rates, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 35, (8) pp. 1-24. ISSN 0886-6236 (2021) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

2021. The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) License, ( which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

DOI: doi:10.1029/2020GB006880


Ocean phytoplankton play a critical role in the global carbon cycle, contributing ~50% of global photosynthesis. As planktonic organisms, phytoplankton encounter significant environmental variability as they are advected throughout the ocean. How this variability impacts phytoplankton growth rates and population dynamics remains unclear. Here, we systematically investigated the impact of different rates and magnitudes of sea surface temperature (SST) variability on phytoplankton community growth rates using surface drifter observations from the Southern Ocean (> 30oS) and a phenotype-based ecosystem model. Short-term SST variability (<7 days) had a minimal impact on phytoplankton community growth rates. Moderate SST changes of 3-5oC over 7-21 days produced a large time lag between the temperature change and the biological response. The impact of SST variability on community growth rates was nonlinear and a function of the rate and magnitude of change. Additionally, the nature of variability generated in a Lagrangian reference frame (following trajectories of surface water parcels) was larger than that within an Eulerian reference frame (fixed point), which initiated different phytoplankton responses between the two reference frames. Finally, we found that these dynamics were not captured by the Eppley growth model commonly used in global biogeochemical models and resulted in an overestimation of community growth rates, particularly in dynamic, strong frontal regions of the Southern Ocean. This work demonstrates that the timescale for environmental selection (community replacement) is a critical factor in determining community composition and takes a first step towards including the impact of variability and biological response times into biogeochemical models.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Lagrangian Sea Surface Temperature Variability, Southern Ocean, phytoplankton
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Physical oceanography
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the environmental sciences
UTAS Author:Boyd, PW (Professor Philip Boyd)
ID Code:151705
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:3
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2022-08-03
Last Modified:2022-09-07
Downloads:4 View Download Statistics

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