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Seasonal and inter-annual variability of plankton chlorophyll and primary production in the Mediterranean Sea: a modelling approach

Lazzari, P.
Solidoro, C.
Ibello, Valeria
Salon, S.
Teruzzi, A.
Beranger, K.
Colella, S.
Crise, A.
This study presents a model of chlorophyll and primary production in the pelagic Mediterranean Sea. A 3-D-biogeochemical model (OPATM-BFM) was adopted to explore specific system characteristics and quantify dynamics of key biogeochemical variables over a 6 yr period, from 1999 to 2004. We show that, on a basin scale, the Mediterranean Sea is characterised by a high degree of spatial and temporal variability in terms of primary production and chlorophyll concentrations. On a spatial scale, important horizontal and vertical gradients have been observed. According to the simulations over a 6 yr period, the developed model correctly simulated the climatological features of deep chlorophyll maxima and chlorophyll west-east gradients, as well as the seasonal variability in the main offshore regions that were studied. The integrated net primary production highlights north-south gradients that differ from surface net primary production gradients and illustrates the importance of resolving spatial and temporal variations to calculate basin-wide budgets and their variability. According to the model, the western Mediterranean, in particular the Alboran Sea, can be considered mesotrophic, whereas the eastern Mediterranean is oligotrophic. During summer stratified period, notable differences between surface net primary production variability and the corresponding vertically integrated production rates have been identified, suggesting that care must be taken when inferring productivity in such systems from satellite observations alone. Finally, specific simulations that were designed to explore the role of external fluxes and light penetration were performed. The subsequent results show that the effects of atmospheric and terrestrial nutrient loads on the total integrated net primary production account for less than 5% of the its annual value, whereas an increase of 30% in the light extinction factor impacts primary production by approximately 10%.