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Oceanographic variability and changes in Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) abundance at South Georgia

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Oceanographic data collected to the north of South Georgia were examined for three consecutive summers (1996/97, 1997/98, 1998/99). The results show the existence of a shelf break front during each period. The most reliable means of defining the front was the potential density anomaly at the near-surface potential temperature minimum. In each year, off-shelf waters were separated from on-shelf waters by water with a potential density anomaly between 27.22 and 27.29 kg m−3. During 1997/98, the near-surface potential temperature minimum was much colder and much shallower than in other years and was consistent with waters originating from much further south than South Georgia; these differences were further evident at a single deep off-shelf station. The oceanographic changes during 1997/98 were consistent with a mesoscale or large-scale movement of the southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current front.

Acoustically determined densities of Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, at South Georgia showed consistent patterns between years. Densities were substantially higher over the shelf compared with off-shelf, with the highest densities at the shelf edge; densities were also higher to the east of the island. During 1997/98, acoustic densities of krill were substantially higher than in other years. The coincidence of the elevated acoustic density and the cooler oceanographic conditions was explored. When data from all years were combined and analysed by Generalized Additive Model, an inverse relationship between acoustic density and temperature was apparent. Historical data were also examined and it was noted that the only other occurrence of such a high estimate of krill density at South Georgia, was when oceanographic conditions were also colder.

Keywords: Antarctic Circumpolar Current; Antarctic krill; Euphausia superba; Scotia Sea; South Georgia; Southern Ocean; acoustic density; interannual variability; oceanography; southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current boundary; southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current front

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St. Andrews, Fife KY16 8LB, UK 2: The Open University, Earth Sciences, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK 3: British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK

Publication date: November 1, 2003

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