Intensive aggregate formation with low vertical flux during an upwelling-induced diatom bloom

Thomas Kiørboe, P. Tiselius, B. Mitchell-Innes, J.L.S. Hansen, Andre Visser, X. Mari

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The surfaces of most pelagic diatoms are sticky at times and may therefore form rapidly settling aggregates by physical coagulation. Stickiness and aggregate formation may be particularly adaptive in upwelling systems by allowing the retention of diatom populations in the vicinity of the upwelling center. We therefore hypothesized that upwelling diatom blooms are terminated by aggregate formation and rapid sedimentation. We monitored the development of a maturing diatom (mainly Chaetoceros spp.) bloom in the Benguela upwelling current during 7 d in February. Chlorophyll concentrations remained consistently high during the observation period (similar to 500 mg Chi m(-2)) and phytoplankton grew at an average specific rate of 0.25 d(-1). The diatoms were extraordinarily sticky, with stickiness coefficients of up to 0.40, which is the highest ever recorded for field populations. Combined with estimates of turbulent shear in the ocean such stickiness coefficients predict very high specific coagulation rates (0.3 d(-1)). In situ video observation demonstrated the occurrence of abundant diatom aggregates with surface water concentrations between 1,000 and 3,000 ppm. Despite the very high concentration of aggregates, vertical fluxes of phytoplankton were very low, with fractional losses
Original languageEnglish
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)104-116
Publication statusPublished - 1998


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