Scientia Marina, Vol 77, No 4 (2013)

Turbulence as a driver for vertical plankton distribution in the subsurface upper ocean

Diego Macías
European Commission, Joint Research Center, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Water Research Unit , Spain

Ángel Rodríguez-Santana
Departamento de Física, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria , Spain

Eduardo Ramírez-Romero
Departamento de Biología, University of Cadiz , Spain

Miguel Bruno
Departamento de Física Aplicada, University of Cadiz , Spain

Josep L. Pelegrí
Institut de Ciències del Mar, CSIC , Spain

Pablo Sangrà
Departamento de Física, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria , Spain

Borja Aguiar-González
Departamento de Física, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria , Spain

Carlos M. García
Departamento de Biología, University of Cadiz , Spain


Vertical distributions of turbulent energy dissipation rates and fluorescence were measured simultaneously with a high-resolution micro-profiler in four different oceanographic regions, from temperate to polar and from coastal to open waters settings. High fluorescence values, forming a deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM), were often located in weakly stratified portions of the upper water column, just below layers with maximum levels of turbulent energy dissipation rate. In the vicinity of the DCM, a significant negative relationship between fluorescence and turbulent energy dissipation rate was found. We discuss the mechanisms that may explain the observed patterns of planktonic biomass distribution within the ocean mixed layer, including a vertically variable diffusion coefficient and the alteration of the cells’ sinking velocity by turbulent motion. These findings provide further insight into the processes controlling the vertical distribution of the pelagic community and position of the DCM.


turbulence; deep chlorophyll maximum; vertical plankton distribution

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