Collaborative Research: Interactive effects of UV and vertical mixing on phytoplankton and bacterioplankton in the Ross Sea
Ultraviolet radiation influences the dynamics of plankton processes in the near-surface waters of most aquatic ecosystems. In particular, the Southern Ocean is affected in the austral spring period when biologically damaging ultraviolet radiation is enhanced by ozone depletion. While progress has been made in estimating the quantitative impact of ultraviolet radiation on bacteria and phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean, some important issues remain to be resolved. Little is known about responses in systems dominated by the colonial haptophyte Phaeocystis antarctica, which dominates spring blooms in a polyna that develops in the southern Ross Sea. The Ross Sea is also of interest because of the occurrence of open water at a far southerly location in the spring, well within the ozone hole, and continuous daylight, with implications for the regulation of DNA repair. A number of studies suggest that vertical mixing can significant modify the impact of ultraviolet radiation in the Southern Ocean and elsewhere. However, there are limited measurements of turbulence intensity in the surface layer and measurements have not been integrated with parallel studies of ultraviolet radiation effects on phytoplankton and bacterioplankton. To address these issues, this collaborative study will focus on vertical mixing and the impact of ultraviolet radiation in the Ross Sea. The spectral and temporal responses of phytoplankton and bacterioplankton to ultraviolet radiation will be characterized in both laboratory and solar incubations. These will lead to the definition of biological weighting functions and response models capable of predicting the depth and time distribution of ultraviolet radiation impacts on photosynthesis, bacterial incorporation and DNA damage in the surface layer. Diel sampling will measure depth-dependent profiles of DNA damage, bacterial incorporation, photosynthesis and fluorescence parameters over a 24 h cycle. Sampling will include stations with contrasting wind-driven mixing and stratification as the polyna develops. The program of vertical mixing measurements is optimized for the typical springtime Ross Sea situation in which turbulence of intermediate intensity is insufficient to mix the upper layer thoroughly in the presence of stabilizing influences like solar heating and/or surface freshwater input from melting ice. Fine-scale vertical density profiles will be measured with a free-fall CTD unit and the profiles will be used to directly estimate large-eddy scales by determining Thorpe scales. Eddy scales and estimated turbulent diffusivities will be directly related to surface layer effects, and used to generate lagrangian depth-time trajectories in models of ultraviolet radiation responses in the surface mixed layer. The proposed research will be the first in-depth study of ultraviolet radiation effects in the Ross Sea and provide a valuable comparison with previous work in the Weddell-Scotia Confluence and Palmer Station regions. It will also enhance the understanding of vertical mixing processes, trophic interactions and biogeochemical cycling in the Ross Sea.
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