Characterising primary productivity measurements across a dynamic western boundary current region

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 2015, 100 pp. 105 - 116
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© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Determining the magnitude of primary production (PP) in a changing ocean is a major research challenge. Thousands of estimates of marine PP exist globally, but there remain significant gaps in data availability, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere. In situ PP estimates are generally single-point measurements and therefore we rely on satellite models of PP in order to scale up over time and space. To reduce the uncertainty around the model output, these models need to be assessed against in situ measurements before use. This study examined the vertically-integrated productivity in four water-masses associated with the East Australian Current (EAC), the major western boundary current (WBC) of the South Pacific. We calculated vertically integrated PP from shipboard 14C PP estimates and then compared them to estimates from four commonly used satellite models (ESQRT, VGPM, VGPM-Eppley, VGPM-Kameda) to assess their utility for this region. Vertical profiles of the water-column show each water-mass had distinct temperature-salinity signatures. The depth of the fluorescence-maximum (fmax) increased from onshore (river plume) to offshore (EAC) as light penetration increased. Depth integrated PP was highest in river plumes (792±181mgCm-2d-1) followed by the EAC (534±116mgCm-2d-1), continental shelf (140±47mgCm-2d-1) and cyclonic eddy waters (121±4mgCm-2d-1). Surface carbon assimilation efficiency was greatest in the EAC (301±145mgC (mgChl-a)-1d-1) compared to other water masses. All satellite primary production models tested underestimated EAC PP and overestimated continental shelf PP. The ESQRT model had the highest skill and lowest bias of the tested models, providing the best first-order estimates of PP on the continental shelf, including at a coastal time-series station, Port Hacking, which showed considerable inter-annual variability (155-2957mgCm-2d-1). This work provides the first estimates of depth integrated PP associated with the East Australian Current in temperate Australia. The ongoing intensification of all WBCs makes it critical to understand the variability in PP at the regional scale. More accurate predictions in the EAC region will require vertically-resolved in situ productivity and bio-optical measurements across multiple time scales to allow development of other models which simulate dynamic ocean conditions.
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