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Free Content Diatom and silicoflagellate fluxes at the Walvis Ridge: An environment influenced by coastal upwelling in the Benguela system

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Seasonal fluctuations in the total particle, biogenic opal, diatom and silicoflagellate fluxes were observed in sediment traps deployed at 599 m and 1648 m in the Walvis Ridge area, within the Benguela upwelling system, from March 1989 to March 1990 (station WR 2: 20°02.8′S, 09°09.3′E). Fluxes were directly related to wind stress variations (wind maxima preceding flux maxima by several weeks), and inversely related to SST changes (derived from measured concentrations of C37 alkenones; range: 14.6°–23.6°C). The biogenic particle composition at different depths reflected the complicated hydrology of the area with a combination of tropical, temperate and subantarctic water masses. Biogenic opal content varied from about 2 to 12% of the total mass flux in the upper trap and from about 4 to 17% in the lower trap. Diatoms were the main contributor to the opal fraction (mean daily flux of ca. 5.5 * 106 valves m−2 day−1), followed by silicoflagellates (ca. 2.6 * 105 skeletons m−2 day−1). Two seasonal maxima, in May and June (austral autumn) and from October to November (austral spring), were observed; silicoflagellates yielded also a third moderate maximum in August/September (austral winter). At 1648 m fluxes peaked from May to July (data were available for the period 18 Mar to 27 Aug 1989 only). Few diatoms were abundant; 19 taxa accounted for 50% of all the diatoms identified, and about 32 for the 75% level. Specific diversity of diatoms at 599 m was highest during times of lowest fluxes, in the austral winter, late spring and summer. The diatom taxa occurring at 599 m and at 1648 m were the same, with some flux enrichment with depth due to advection of particles into the lower trap by resuspension and downslope movement. The relatively high concentrations of the Antarctic-Subantarctic species Fragilariopsis kerguelensis in the upper trap solely, was probably linked to selective entrainment and transport within a ring of southerly origin (south of the Subantarctic/Subtropical Convergence Zone). The enrichment of moderately resistant and robust taxa in the sediments in conjunction with the rarity or absence of delicate taxa points to preferential concentration in the sediments of some taxa and dissolution of others. The occurrence of phytoliths in the traps and in the sediment sample can be linked to the “berg” winds, which are typical for the entire Benguela region during fall and winter.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1996-09-01

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