Seasonal phytoplankton blooms in the Gulf of Aden revealed by remote sensing
Gittings, JA; Raitsos, DE; Racault, MF; et al.Brewin, RJW; Pradhan, Y; Sathyendranath, S; Platt, T
Date: 25 November 2016
Remote Sensing of Environment
The Gulf of Aden, situated in the northwest Arabian Sea and linked to the Red Sea, is a relatively unexplored ecosystem. Understanding of large-scale biological dynamics is limited by the lack of adequate datasets. In this study, we analyse 15 years of remotely-sensed chlorophyll-a data (Chl-a, an index of phytoplankton biomass) acquired ...
The Gulf of Aden, situated in the northwest Arabian Sea and linked to the Red Sea, is a relatively unexplored ecosystem. Understanding of large-scale biological dynamics is limited by the lack of adequate datasets. In this study, we analyse 15 years of remotely-sensed chlorophyll-a data (Chl-a, an index of phytoplankton biomass) acquired from the Ocean Colour Climate Change Initiative (OC-CCI) of the European Space Agency (ESA). The improved spatial coverage of OC-CCI data in the Gulf of Aden allows, for the first time, an investigation into the full seasonal succession of phytoplankton biomass. Analysis of indices of phytoplankton phenology (bloom timing) reveals distinct phytoplankton growth periods in different parts of the gulf: a large peak during August (mid-summer) in the western part of the gulf, and a smaller peak during November (mid-autumn) in the lower central gulf and along the southern coastline. The summer bloom develops rapidly at the beginning of July, and its peak is approximately three times higher than that of the autumnal bloom. Remotely-sensed sea-surface temperature (SST), wind-stress curl, vertical nutrient profiles and geostrophic currents inferred from the sea-level anomaly, were analysed to examine the underlying physical mechanisms that control phytoplankton growth. During summer, the prevailing southwesterlies cause upwelling along the northern coastline of the gulf (Yemen), leading to an increase in nutrient availability and enhancing phytoplankton growth along the coastline and in the western part of the gulf. In contrast, in the central region of the gulf, lowest concentrations of Chl-a are observed during summer, due to strong downwelling caused by a mesoscale anticyclonic eddy. During autumn, the prevailing northeasterlies enable upwelling along the southern coastline (Somalia) causing local nutrient enrichment in the euphotic zone, leading to higher levels of phytoplankton biomass along the coastline and in the lower central gulf. The monsoon wind reversal is shown to play a key role in controlling phytoplankton growth in different regions of the Gulf of Aden.
College of Life and Environmental Sciences
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