Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research
Antarctic Climate and Ecosystem Cooperative Research Centre, the Australian Antarctic Division research projects AAS 4131 and 4291
Edith Cowan University through an Early Career Researcher Grant (G1003456) and an ECU-Collaboration Enhancement Scheme grant (G1003362)
Further funding information available at:
Polynyas represent regions of enhanced primary production because of the low, or absent, sea-ice cover coupled with the proximity of nutrient sources. However, studies throughout the Southern Ocean suggest elevated primary production does not necessarily result in increased carbon export. Three coastal polynyas in East Antarctica and an off-shelf region were visited during the austral summer from December 2016 to January 2017 to examine the vertical distribution and concentration of particulate organic carbon (POC). Carbon export was also examined using thorium-234 (234Th) as a proxy at two of the polynyas. Our results show that concentrations and integrated POC stocks were higher within the polynyas compared to the off-shelf sites. Within the polynyas, vertical POC concentrations were higher in the Mertz and Ninnis polynyas compared to the Dalton polynya. Similarly, higher carbon export was measured in the diatom-dominated Mertz polynya, where large particles ( > 53 μm) represented a significant fraction of the particulate 234Th and POC (average 50 % and 39 %, respectively), compared to the small flagellate-dominated Dalton polynya, where almost all the particulate 234Th and POC were found in the smaller size fraction (1 – 53 μm). The POC to Chlorophyll-a ratios suggest that organic matter below the mixed layer in the polynyas consisted largely of fresh phytoplankton at this time of the year. In combination with a parallel study on phytoplankton production at these sites, we find that increased primary production at these polynyas does lead to greater concentrations and export of POC and a higher POC export efficiency.
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