The influence of diurnal winds on phytoplankton dynamics in a coastal upwelling system off southwestern Africa

´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐Stacked, variance-preserving power spectral density estimates of (a) alongshore velocity, (b) cross-shore velocity
TitleThe influence of diurnal winds on phytoplankton dynamics in a coastal upwelling system off southwestern Africa
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsLucas A.J, Pitcher G.C, Probyn T.A, Kudela R.M
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography
Date Published2014/03
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0967-0645
Accession NumberWOS:000334141700005
Keywordsalexandrium-catenella; california current system; Coastal upwelling; continental-shelf; Critical latitude; dinophysis-acuminata; Diurnal-inertial resonance; forced-oscillations; Harmful algal blooms; Inertial currents; pseudo-nitzschia; sea-breeze; Shear-driven mixing; southern namaqua shelf; spp.; submesoscale; thin-layers; transition

At a coastal upwelling zone near 30 degrees S latitude, diurnal wind variability forced energetic inertial current oscillations (>0.5 m s(-1)) that materially influenced phytoplankton distribution and productivity. The diurnal-inertial band resonance found at this latitude in the Benguela upwelling system allowed rapid, efficient transfer of energy from counterclockwise rotating winds into anticyclonic currents upon the onset of the transition from relaxation to upwelling conditions. These inertial band oscillations caused regular pycnocline outcropping at the surface and the vertical advection of nutrient-rich waters in the coastal zone. Vertical pycnocline outcropping was coincident with the vertical redistribution of chlorophyll a fluorescence from a subsurface maximum to entrainment into the surface mixed layer, in effect turning vertical phytoplankton gradients into horizontal ones. The shear caused by the vertical structure of the inertial oscillations during (and after) the onset of wind forcing was intense enough to erode the strong stratification established during a prior relaxation period, according to Richardson number and strain analyses. This diapycnal mixing also had the consequence of mixing heat and chlorophyll downwards and nutrient-rich water upwards, such that the surface nitrate concentration became non-zero. Chlorophyll concentrations thereafter increased in what qualitatively appeared to be a phytoplankton bloom. This diurnal-inertial resonance-driven mechanism for mixing-driven nutrient flux, embedded within the low-frequency advective vertical flux forced by Ekman dynamics, enhanced the efficiency of wind forcing to produce high phytoplankton productivity, and is likely to be of first-order importance in bloom dynamics in the study area (including harmful algal blooms). Our results argue that, in general, high-frequency physical dynamics should be considered when studying the bottom-up forcing of algal blooms and red tide events. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


"Despite years of effort, accurate HAB forecasting remains challenging, primarily due to the complexity of the interplay between physical and biological dynamics in coastal waters. As a necessary step forward in HAB management, monitoring, and forecasting, we developed a detailed conceptual framework of the physical dynamics that drive phytoplankton productivity, phytoplankton transport, and phytoplankton community changes over the continental shelf of the west coast of South Africa."

Integrated Research Themes: 
Student Publication: 
Research Topics: