The North Atlantic Spring Phytoplankton Bloom and Sverdrup's Critical Depth Hypothesis

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Science  26 Apr 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5568, pp. 730-733
DOI: 10.1126/science.1069174

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More than 50 years ago, Harald Sverdrup developed a simple model for the necessary conditions leading to the spring bloom of phytoplankton. Although this model has been used extensively across a variety of aquatic ecosystems, its application requires knowledge of community compensation irradiance (I C), the light level where photosynthetic and ecosystem community loss processes balance. However, reported I C values have varied by an order of magnitude. Here, I C estimates are determined using satellite and hydrographic data sets consistent with the assumptions in Sverdrup's 1953 critical depth hypothesis. Retrieved values of I C are approximately uniform throughout much of the North Atlantic with a mean value of 1.3 mol photons meter−2 day−1. These community-basedI C determinations are roughly twice typical values found for phytoplankton alone indicating that phytoplankton account for approximately one-half of community ecosystem losses. This work also suggests that important aspects of heterotrophic community dynamics can be assessed using satellite observations.

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