Source Waters for the Highly Productive Patagonian Shelf in the Southwestern Atlantic

Song, H., Marshall, J., Follows, M., Dutkiewicz, S., and Gaël Forget
Journal of Marine Systems,

Possible nutrient sources and delivery mechanisms for the highly productive Patagonian shelf in the southwest Atlantic are identified. Using a passive tracer adjoint sensitivity experiment, we identify three source waters: waters local to the Patagonian shelf, coastal waters near the Chilean coast and the subsurface waters in the southeast Pacific. We perform a series of forward simulations of a biogeochemical model to investigate the impact of nutrient perturbations in these source regions to productivity on the Patagonian shelf.

Positive nitrate perturbations from local waters have an immediate impact elevating productivity. Iron perturbations local to the shelf, however, do not change productivity because the shelf region is limited by nitrate. Additional nutrient supply from the other source regions leads to increases in productivity. We find that positive nutrient perturbations in subsurface waters in the southeast Pacific result in the largest boost of productivity over the shelf. These source waters are rich in nutrients and upwelled from the depth where light levels are so low that they cannot be consumed. Finally, we identify wintertime intense vertical mixing as the key process which draws nutrients from below 300–500 m to the surface before being delivered to the shelf.