Relationship of plankton and marine snow to hydrography and currents on the southwest portion of Georges Bank during June 1997
A key question in biological oceanography is how plankton populations maintain themselves in regions of favorable growth and survival in the face of horizontal transport by ocean currents. Plankton are thought to be retained on the highly productive Georges Bank by the clockwise flow, which intensifies with vernal warming. The extent to which plankton are transported off the bank to the southwest or transported northward and retained on the bank remains poorly understood. This thesis examined the relationship between plankton and physical properties in the southwest corner of the bank, the retention-loss region (RLR). Analysis of field data (Video Plankton Recorder, Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler, and satellite-tracked drifters) and modeling results was performed to quantify the relationships between plankton, hydrography, and currents and the fluxes through the RLR. Temperature-salinity-plankton diagrams and factor analysis revealed that most plankton taxa had characteristic relationships to the hydrography, with the exception of copepods which were everywhere abundant. The flux of plankton during a complete tidal cycle and in the de-tided current data indicated this region was not retentive to plankton, since the bulk of the flow remained to the southwest, despite the presence of a vernally warmed surface layer. A Lagrangian particle trajectory model was used to further examine transport of plankton through the RLR during late spring /early summer (June) when vernal stratification was established. Passive particles were used, since no die1 vertical migration by plankton was found in the data. The model revealed that the bulk of the plankton was carried out of the RLR through the southern and western boundaries. The modeling and data analysis show clearly that the plankton were lost from the bank to the southwest rather than being re-circulated to the north. These results have important implications for the plankton populations on Georges Bank and can be used in future modeling efforts that examine the factors controlling plankton populations in this region.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for Master of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution June 2005
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