Incorporating Phaeocystis into a Southern Ocean ecosystem model
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Incorporating Phaeocystis into a Southern Ocean ecosystem model


Phaeocystis antarctica is an important phytoplankton species in the Southern Ocean. We incorporated P. antarctica into the biogeochemical elemental cycling ocean model to study Southern Ocean ecosystem dynamics and biogeochemistry. The optimum values of ecological parameters for Phaeocystis were sought through synthesizing laboratory and field observations, and the model output was evaluated with observed chlorophyll a, carbon biomass, and nutrient distributions. Several factors have been proposed to control Southern Ocean ecosystem structure, including light adaptation, iron uptake capability, and loss processes. Optimum simulation results were obtained when P. antarctica had a relatively high α (P-I curve initial slope) value and a higher half-saturation constant for iron uptake than other phytoplankton. Simulation results suggested that P. antarctica had a competitive advantage under low irradiance levels, especially in the Ross Sea and Weddell Sea. However, the distributions of P. antarctica and diatoms were also strongly influenced by iron availability. Although grazing rates had an influence on total biomass, our simulations did not show a strong influence of grazing pressure in the competition between P. antarctica and diatoms. However, limited observations and the relative simplicity of zooplankton in our model suggest further research is needed. Overall, P. antarctica contributed ∼13% of annual primary production and ∼19% of sinking carbon export in the Southern Ocean (>40°S) in our best case simulation. At higher latitudes (>60°S) P. antarctica accounts for ∼23% of annual primary production and ∼30% of sinking carbon export.

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