Dissolved oxygen dynamics during a phytoplankton bloom in the Ross Sea polynya

Bastien Y. Queste, Karen J. Heywood, Walker O. Smith, Daniel E. Kaufman, Timothy D. Jickells, Michael S. Dinniman

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The Ross Sea polynya is one of the most productive regions in the Southern Ocean. However, limited access and high spatio-temporal variability of physical and biological processes limit the use of conventional oceanographic methods to measure early season primary productivity. High-resolution observations from two Seagliders provide insights into the timing of a bloom in the southern Ross Sea polynya in December 2010. Changes in chlorophyll and oxygen concentrations are used to assess bloom dynamics. Using a ratio of dissolved oxygen to carbon, net primary production is estimated over the duration of the bloom showing a sensitive balance between net autotrophy and heterotrophy. The two gliders, observing spatially distinct regions during the same period, found net community production rates of -0.9±0.7 and 0.7±0.4 g C m-2 d-1. The difference highlights the spatial variability of biological processes and is probably caused by observing different stages of the bloom. The challenge of obtaining accurate primary productivity estimates highlights the need for increased observational efforts, particularly focusing on subsurface processes not resolved using surface or remote observations. Without an increased observational effort and the involvement of emerging technologies, it will not be possible to determine the seasonal trophic balance of the Ross Sea polynya and quantify the shelf's importance in carbon export.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-372
Number of pages11
JournalAntarctic Science
Issue number4
Early online date20 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


  • carbon
  • chlorophyll
  • productivity
  • Seaglider
  • stratification
  • trophic state

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