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EARTH SCIENCE | BIOSPHERE | ECOSYSTEMS | AQUATIC ECOSYSTEMS | PLANKTON | PHYTOPLANKTON

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  • The effect of ocean alkalinity enhancement on a coastal phytoplankton community was assessed via a microcosm experiment. The effect of alkalinity enhancement in two scenarios (i) when enclosed seawater was in equilibrium with atmospheric CO2 and (ii) when enclosed seawater was not in equilibrium with atmospheric CO2 were explored. Alkalinity was increased by ~497 umol/kg in these two treatments and plankton communities, carbonate chemistry, dissolved inorganic nutrients, particulate matter and chlorophyll a dynamics monitored over a 22 day period where a spring bloom occurred.

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    These data are from a voyage (IN2019_V01) on RV Investigator with the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), that took place during January-March 2019. The Chief Scientist was Mike Double from the AAD. Clara R. Vives collected biogeochemical data on the voyage, and performed a series of incubation experiments for her PhD. The purpose of the study was to investigate the effects of iron and light on phytoplankton growth off East Antarcitca. Data include CTD nutrients, chlorophyll and oxygen as well as underway phytoplankton physiology (measured as the photochemical efficiency) and pCO2. Some data are duplicated but not in exactly the same format on the CSIRO Data Trawler.

  • Phytoplankton productivity in the polar Southern Ocean (SO) plays an important role in the transfer of carbon from the atmosphere to the ocean’s interior, a process called the biological carbon pump, which helps regulate global climate. SO productivity in turn is limited by low iron, light, and temperature, which restrict the ef- ficiency of the carbon pump. Iron and light can colimit productivity due to the high iron content of the photosynthetic photosystems and the need for increased photosystems for low-light acclimation in many phytoplankton. Here we show that SO phytoplankton have evolved critical adaptations to enhance photosynthetic rates under the joint constraints of low iron, light, and temperature. Under growth-limiting iron and light levels, three SO species had up to sixfold higher photosynthetic rates per photosystem II and similar or higher rates per mol of photosynthetic iron than tem- perate species, despite their lower growth temperature (3 vs. 18 °C) and light intensity (30 vs. 40 μmol quanta·m2·s−1), which should have decreased photosynthetic rates. These unexpectedly high rates in the SO species are partly explained by their unusually large photosynthetic antennae, which are among the largest ever recorded in marine phytoplankton. Large antennae are disadvan- tageous at low light intensities because they increase excitation energy loss as heat, but this loss may be mitigated by the low SO temperatures. Such adaptations point to higher SO production rates than environmental conditions should otherwise permit, with implications for regional ecology and biogeochemistry.

  • Comprehensive baseline environmental data for Storm Bay in south eastern Tasmania were required to inform the salmonid industry regarding site selection, to provide background environmental data before large-scale farming commences, and to support the development of a scientifically relevant and cost-effective environmental monitoring program. Storm Bay is a large deep bay that receives freshwater inflow from the River Derwent on its north-western boundary and exchanges water with Frederick Henry Bay on its north-eastern boundary. The eastern and western boundaries are defined by the Tasman Peninsula and Bruny Island, respectively, and the southern boundary connects with the Tasman Sea. This area is a mixing zone between the River Derwent outflow and oceanic waters. The oceanography in Storm Bay is complex and is characterized by considerable fluctuations in temperature, salinity and nutrients on variable temporal and spatial scales. This is due to the southerly extension of warm nutrient-depleted sub-tropical waters transported via the East Australian Current (EAC) down the east coast of Tasmania over summer, whilst the south and south-west coasts are influenced by cooler, nutrient-rich sub-Antarctic waters from the south and the Leeuwin Current from the north-west (Buchanan et al. 2014). The current project arose in response to the salmon aquaculture industry recognising the need for increased scientific knowledge to support ecologically sustainable development of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) farming operations in south-eastern Tasmania, particularly expansion into Storm Bay. The information provided will assist salmon companies to manage their operations in Storm Bay under varying environmental conditions. Our research has also provided the opportunity to investigate changes in water quality over a quarter of a century, as CSIRO investigated seasonal and inter-annual variability in chemical and biological parameters in Storm Bay during 1985-89. We sampled at the same “master station” in Storm Bay as CSIRO and used similar procedures where possible. Five sites were sampled monthly in Storm Bay for over five years from November 2009 to April 2015, except on rare occasions when weather conditions were unsuitable, and bimonthly at times in 2013 when external funding was not available. Site 1 was located at the mouth of the Derwent estuary and the entrance to Storm Bay, site 2 was in the same location as the ‘master site’ of a CSIRO study in 1985-88, site 3 was furthest offshore and provided the most information on oceanic currents influencing the bay, while sites 5 and 6 were requested by the salmon aquaculture industry as potential sites for expansion of salmon farming. Site 4 was further offshore and monitoring at this site was discontinued after three months because of insufficient time to collect samples from all sites in one day. An additional site, 9, at the entrance to Frederick Henry Bay was included from 18 July 2011 at the request of the Marine Farming Branch, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE), to provide information on water quality coming from Frederick Henry Bay. Adjacent to, and largely unaffected by the River Derwent, Frederick Henry Bay is a large marine embayment with limited freshwater input from the Coal River at its northern boundary. ---------------------------------------------- See child records linked to this parent record for specific context and methodologies for each of the monitoring variables (phytoplankton, zooplankton, chlorophyll, pigment, nutrients, oceanography).

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    Phytoplankton was counted and identified from five sites over the 5-year period. Annual cycles in abundance are available (as cells mL-1), along with detailed species identification. Cell measurements and approximate geometric shape were also recorded for the calculation of biovolume (μL cell-1). Diatoms and dinoflagellates dominated the samples in terms of biomass, however, small cells were also very abundant throughout each year. The data are restricted to an integrated sample from the top 12 m of the water column. Fluorescence profiles elsewhere in this dataset can provide an indication of phytoplankton presence lower in the water column.

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    Zooplankton was counted and identified from three sites over the 5-year period. The net used (200 m Bongo net) was designed to catch meso-zooplankton with an integrated vertical tow through the water column. One net from each of the paired Bongo samples was analysed and the data expressed as numbers per m3. Copepods dominated the zooplankton, with other groups such as salps, krill, appendicularians, cladocerans, chaetognaths and meroplanktonic larvae being seasonally dominant.

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    Maximum photochemical efficiency of photosystem II (PSII), also called maximum quantum yield of PSII (Fv/Fm), has become one of the most widely utilized fluorescence parameters in phytoplankton research. It represents the potential photochemical efficiency, which is the probability that the light energy captured by the photosynthetic apparatus is being utilized as photochemistry. Fv/Fm has been shown to have an instant response to variations in physical and chemical properties and is interpreted as a diagnostic of the overall health or competence of phytoplankton. Together with the absorption cross section area of PSII and chlorophyll concentration, it can be used to measure primary production (Cheah et al. 2011, Deep Sea Research). Seawater from 3 m depth was supplied continuously from the ship’s clean seawater line. FRR fluorescence yields were measured continuously at 1 minute intervals in dark-adapted state (! 15 minutes dark-adaptation) using a flash sequence consisting of a series of 100 subsaturation flashlets (1.1 μs flash duration and 2.8 μs interflash period) and a series of 20 relaxation flashlets (1.1 μs flash duration and 51.6 μs interflash period).

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    Biologically relevant macronutrients, nitrate + nitrite, silicate, phosphate and ammonia, were measured at all sites throughout the study. Nitrate + nitrite values (NOx) at the surface showed clear seasonal trends, peaking over winter and drawing down to near zero in summer and autumn. Phosphate concentrations also reached a peak in winter, which was associated with Southern Ocean influence. Median ammonium concentrations at all sites were generally <0.5 μM, with no clear peaks in any season or month. Overall, the lowest values were measured in August and other months showed reasonable spread around the median. Median silicate concentrations were consistently highest at sites 1 and 9, followed by site 5. Water from the River Derwent flows through site 1, then tracks east towards site 9 then site 5. Seasonally, silicate was generally highest in winter when the River Derwent outflow is also greatest.