The contribution of the deep chlorophyll maximum to primary production in a seasonally stratified shelf sea, the North Sea

Liam Fernand, Keith Weston, Tom Morris, Naomi Greenwood, Juan Brown, Tim Jickells

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Results from extensive cruises in the years 2000 and 2001 throughout distinct ecohydrodynamic regions of the central and southern North Sea are presented and used to generate estimates of gross primary production and new production. An undulating CTD fitted with a fluorometer was towed over a distance of 12,000 kms. Fluorescence data were used to determine the chlorophyll distribution and derive estimates of phytoplankton biomass. These results were combined with estimates of primary production (new and regenerated) from experiments from one cruise in order to estimate gross production for a greater geographical extent. Results from repeat inter-annual transects showed that the strength of the thermocline and the associated deep chlorophyll maximum were variable. However, when the primary production was integrated over the 15-40 m depth, the variability between years was low. While the depth and strength of the deep chlorophyll maximum varied across the region, a deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM) is a consistent and widespread feature of this region at around 30 m depth. In 2001 the calculated average primary production rate in summer for the whole area surveyed was 0. 91 g C m day. This daily production equates to ~130 g C m for the summer stratified period. In the offshore stratified regions around the Dogger Bank and Eastern Central North Sea primary production of 64 g C m associated with the deep chlorophyll maximum (15-40 m) accounted for 60 % of total primary production during the summer stratified period (after the spring bloom). Approximately 66 % of new production in these areas occurred in the DCM. This study shows the extent of the DCM in the North Sea and demonstrates its importance in sustaining primary production after the spring bloom.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-166
Number of pages14
Issue number1
Early online date21 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


  • North Sea
  • Towed undulator
  • Deep chlorophyll maximum
  • Primary productivity

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