Project Information
Collaborative Research: Impact of Mesoscale Processes on Iron Supply and Phytoplankton Dynamics in the Ross Sea
The Ross Sea continental shelf is one of the most productive areas in the Southern Ocean, and may comprise a significant, but unaccounted for, oceanic CO2 sink, largely driven by phytoplankton production. The processes that control the magnitude of primary production in this region are not well understood, but data suggest that iron limitation is a factor. Field observations and model simulations indicate four potential sources of dissolved iron to surface waters of the Ross Sea: (1) circumpolar deep water intruding from the shelf edge; (2) sediments on shallow banks and nearshore areas; (3) melting sea ice around the perimeter of the polynya; and (4) glacial meltwater from the Ross Ice Shelf. The principal investigators hypothesize that hydrodynamic transport via mesoscale currents, fronts, and eddies facilitate the supply of dissolved iron from these four sources to the surface waters of the Ross Sea polynya. These hypotheses will be tested through a combination of in situ observations and numerical modeling, complemented by satellite remote sensing. In situ observations will be obtained during a month-long cruise in the austral summer. The field data will be incorporated into model simulations, which allow quantification of the relative contributions of the various hypothesized iron supply mechanisms, and assessment of their impact on primary production. The research will provide new insights and a mechanistic understanding of the complex oceanographic phenomena that regulate iron supply, primary production, and biogeochemical cycling. The research will thus form the basis for predictions about how this system may change in a warming climate. The broader impacts include training of graduate and undergraduate students, international collaboration, and partnership with several ongoing outreach programs that address scientific research in the Southern Ocean. The research also will contribute to the goals of the international research programs ICED (Integrated Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics) and GEOTRACES (Biogeochemical cycling and trace elements in the marine environment).
Person Role
McGillicuddy, Dennis Investigator
Smith, Walker Investigator
Unknown Program Award # 0944165
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 0944254
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Deployment Type
NBP1201 ship expedition
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
  1. Li, Y., McGillicuddy, D. J., Dinniman, M. S., & Klinck, J. M. (2017). Processes influencing formation of low-salinity high-biomass lenses near the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. Journal of Marine Systems, 166, 108–119. (doi:10.1016/j.jmarsys.2016.07.002)