The onset of biological winter in the eastern Weddell Gyre (Antarctica) planktonic community

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Data on hydrography, phyto- and zooplankton, obtained on a transect along the 0° meridian during the Winter Weddell Gyre Study, June 1992, revealed peculiarities of the early winter situation in the eastern Weddell Gyre. The vertical distribution and developmental stage composition of Rhincalanus gigas, Calanoides acutus, Calanus propinquus and krill, Euphausia superba larvae, were a good index for a general assessment of the seasonal condition of the plankton communities. There were 5 zones differing in seasonal situation: 1) The Polar Front and the southern ACC (not studied in detail), 2) The Weddell Front, 3) The Weddell Gyre interior, 4) The Maud Rise area and 5) The Coastal Current zone. In the Weddell Front, the planktonic community resembled an autumnal situation with moderate phytoplankton biomass; the overwintering stock of copepods was not completely formed and the occurrence of calyptopes larvae of E. superba indicated that krill continued to reproduce until May. In the Weddell Gyre interior, a typical winter plankton community was found even before sea ice had formed. The specific hydrographic regime of the Maud Rise (governed by the mesoscale circulation over the seamount) support the late autumn conditions similar to the Weddell Front (but without early krill larvae). The plankton of the Coastal Current was a winter community. We conclude that in the eastern part of the Weddell Front (compared to the western part) seasonal development of both phytoplankton and herbivorous zooplankton is delayed in spring but prolonged in late autumn. Furthermore it appears that the Weddell Sea ecosystem exhibits a much higher degree of spatial and temporal variability than thought before. This may have an impact on seasonal pattern of organic carbon transport from the pelagic realm to deeper water layers and to the sediment.

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Peer revision
ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
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Spiridonov, V. A. , Nöthig, E. M. , Schröder, M. and Wisotzki, A. (1996): The onset of biological winter in the eastern Weddell Gyre (Antarctica) planktonic community , Journal of marine systems, 9 , pp. 211-230 .


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