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Free Content Impact of sub-mesoscale physics on production and subduction of phytoplankton in an oligotrophic regime

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Using a protocol of numerical experiments where horizontal resolution is progressively increased, we show that small-scale (or sub-mesoscale) physics has a strong impact on both mesoscale physics and phytoplankton production/subduction.

Mesoscale and sub-mesoscale physics result from the nonlinear equilibration of an unstable baroclinic jet. The biogeochemical context is oligotrophy. The explicitly resolved sub-mesoscales, at least smaller than one fifth of the internal Rossby radius of deformation, reinforce the mesoscale eddy field and contribute to double the primary production and phytoplankton subduction budgets. This enhancement is due to the reinforced mesoscale physics and is also achieved by the small-scale frontal dynamics. This sub-mesoscale physics is associated with density and vorticity gradients around and between the eddies. It triggers a significant small-scale nutrient injection in the surface layers, leading to a phytoplankton field mostly dominated by fine spatial structures. It is believed that, depending on wind forcings, this scenario should work alternately with that of Abraham (1998) which invokes horizontal stirring of nutrient injected at large scales. Results also reveal a strong relationship between new production and negative vorticity, in the absence of wind forcing and during the period of formation of the eddies.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2001

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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