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Importance of stirring in the development of an iron-fertilized phytoplankton bloom


Abraham, ER and Law, CS and Boyd, PW and Lavender, SJ and Maldonado, MT and Bowie, AR, Importance of stirring in the development of an iron-fertilized phytoplankton bloom, Nature, 407, (6805) pp. 727-730. ISSN 0003-2654 (2000) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1038/35037555


The growth of populations is known to be influenced by dispersal, which has often been described as purely diffusive. In the open ocean, however, the tendrils and filaments of phytoplankton populations provide evidence for dispersal by stirring. Despite the apparent importance of horizontal stirring for plankton ecology, this process remains poorly characterized. Here we investigate the development of a discrete phytoplankton bloom, which was initiated by the iron fertilization of a patch of water (7 km in diameter) in the Southern Ocean. Satellite images show a striking, 150-km-long bloom near the experimental site, six weeks after the initial fertilization. We argue that the ribbon-like bloom was produced from the fertilized patch through stirring, growth and diffusion, and we derive an estimate of the stirring rate. In this case, stirring acts as an important control on bloom development, mixing phytoplankton and iron out of the patch, but also entraining silicate. This may have prevented the onset of silicate limitation, and so allowed the bloom to continue for as long as there was sufficient iron. Stirring in the ocean is likely to be variable, so blooms that are initially similar may develop very differently.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Physical oceanography
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Marine systems and management
Objective Field:Oceanic processes (excl. in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean)
UTAS Author:Bowie, AR (Professor Andrew Bowie)
ID Code:26327
Year Published:2000
Web of Science® Times Cited:211
Deposited By:IASOS
Deposited On:2003-05-30
Last Modified:2011-08-04

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