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Transport of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) across the Scotia Sea. Part I: Circulation and particle tracking simulations

The Harvard Ocean Prediction System (HOPS) is configured to simulate the circulation of the Scotia Sea and environs. This is part of a study designed to test the hypothesis that Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) populations at South Georgia in the eastern Scotia Sea are sustained by import of individuals from upstream regions, such as the western Antarctic Peninsula. Comparison of the simulated circulation fields obtained from HOPS with observations showed good agreement. The surface circulation, particularly through the Drake Passage and across the Scotia Sea, matches observations, with its northeastward flow characterized by three high-speed fronts. Also, the Weddell Sea and the Brazil Current, and their associated transports match observations. In addition, mesoscale variability, an important component of the flow in this region, is found in the simulated circulation and the model is overall well suited to model krill transport. Drifter simulations conducted with HOPS showed that krill spawned in areas coinciding with known krill spawning sites along the west Antarctic Peninsula continental shelf can be entrained into the Southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current Front (SACCF). They are transported across the Scotia Sea to South Georgia in 10 months or less. Drifters originating on the continental shelf of the Weddell Sea can reach South Georgia as well; however, transport from this region averages about 20 months. Additional simulations show that such transport is sensitive to changes in wind stress and the location of the SACCF. The results of this study show that krill populations along the Antarctic Peninsula and the Weddell Sea are possible source populations that can provide krill to the South Georgia population. However, successful transport of krill to South Georgia is shown to depend on a multitude of factors, such as the location of the spawning area and timing of spawning, and variations in the location of the SACCF. Therefore, this study provides insight into which environmental factors control the successful transport of krill across the Scotia Sea and with it a better understanding of krill distribution in the region. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.