Graduation Year

2007

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Robert H. Byrne, Ph.D.

Keywords

North Pacific, Subtropical front, Subtropical gyre, Oligotrophic, Spectrophotometric elemental analysis system, Nitrite, Nitrate, Phosphate, Nanomolar, Liquid core waveguide

Abstract

Biogeochemical changes across oceanic interfaces, and method development to study such changes, are described in this work. The interfaces studied include the Subtropical Front in the Pacific Ocean and the boundary at the base of the euphotic zone. Both interfaces are characterized by accumulations of phytoplankton, although the forcing functions that result in increased biomass are distinctly different.The Subtropical Front, located at approximately 30°N in the Pacific Ocean, was detected during a cruise in the summer of 2002 by its diagnostic 34.8 salinity outcrop, in spite of the absence of its associated temperature signature. The front displayed elevated concentrations of large diatoms; Rhizosolenia and Hemiaulus, with concentrations penetrating deeper in the water column south of the front. Rhizosolenia species were dominant on the warmer, high salinity side of the front, while Hemiaulus prevailed on the cooler, low salinity side.

While high cell counts were enumerated by net tows, the elevated biomass was not visible in satellite color imagery. Size fractionated chlorophyll data revealed > 10 um cells were found below 200 m, indicating export of large cells out of the euphotic zone. This confirms observations by other investigators that fronts represent important regions of episodic export, although such export may go undetected if the biomass is not visible in ocean color images. Another region of interest was the narrow layer at the base of the euphotic zone. During stratified conditions, the layer was characterized by a fluorescence maximum, a primary nitrite maximum, and a nutricline. While fluorescence maxima have proven easy to detect using commercial fluorometers, nutrient distributions have proven more difficult.

The Spectrophotometric Elemental Analysis System (SEAS) permitted detection of low concentrations of nitrite, nitrate, and phosphate with nanomolar sensitivity and 1 Hz or better sampling frequency. Using multiple wavelength spectroscopy, the range of nitrate concentrations from 2 nM to 20 uM have been detected. Profiles of nitrite obtained across the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre revealed the close correlation between nitrite and chlorophyll fluorescence maxima, suggesting that the nitrite maximum is formed by phytoplankton when insufficient light is available to permit reduction of nitrite to ammonia.

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