Profiling float observation of thermohaline staircases in the western Mediterranean Sea and impact on nutrient fluxes

Type Article
Date 2020-07
Language English
Author(s) Taillandier Vincent1, Prieur Louis1, D'Ortenzio Fabrizio1, Ribera D'Alcala Maurizio2, 3, Pulido-Villena Elvira4
Affiliation(s) 1 : CNRS, Sorbonne Universités, Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche, UMR7093, Villefranche-5 sur-Mer, France
2 : Department of Integrative Marine Ecology, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Napoli, Italy
3 : Istituto per lo Studio degli Impatti Antropici e Sostenibilità in Ambiente Marino, CNR, Roma, Italy
4 : Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, Université de Toulon, IRD, Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography, UMR7294, Marseille, France
Source Biogeosciences (1726-4170) (Copernicus GmbH), 2020-07 , Vol. 17 , N. 13 , P. 3343-3366
DOI /10.5194/bg-17-3343-2020
WOS© Times Cited 13
Note Special issue Atmospheric deposition in the low-nutrient-low-chlorophyll (LNLC) ocean: effects on marine life today and in the future (BG/ACP inter-journal SI) Editor(s): Christine Klaas, Cecile Guieu, Karine Desboeufs, Jan-Berend Stuut, Mark Moore, Paraskevi Pitta, Silvia Becagli, and Chiara Santinelli Special issue jointly organized between Biogeosciences and Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics

Characterizing the spatio-temporal arrangements of inorganic nutrients is critical to improve our understanding of the marine biological primary production. Among the processes contributing to nutrient distributions, diapycnal diffusion plays a crucial role for the supply of nutrients to the surface productive zone, and for the equilibration of vertical differences in nutrient concentrations induced by large scale thermohaline circulation. This is the case in the western Mediterranean Sea, where Levantine intermediate waters (LIW), that circulate below the surface layer, regionally distribute the nutrient stocks conveyed from the eastern basin or provided by terrestrial inputs, atmospheric deposition, and remineralization of organic matter. In the present study, we focus on the role played by diffusive processes in the LIW fertilization, considering long-term observations of thermohaline staircases. In association with the unprecedented contribution of profiling floats to explore their structural changes, the fine characterization of western Mediterranean thermohaline staircases sampled during the cruise PEACETIME can be carried out from a different perspective. Observations revealed that thermohaline staircases develop over epicentral regions confined inside large scale circulation features and sustained by saltier LIW inflows on the periphery. As observed in the Algerian Basin, these epicentral regions are thought to be site of active mixing, with changes of seawater properties by about + 0.06 °C in temperature and + 0.02 in salinity during the four years of observation. In-situ lateral density ratios are analysed in the view of theoretical predictions to identify and untangle (i) salt fingering as driver of water mass conversion, with (ii) isopycnal diffusion as spreader of heat and salt from the surrounding sources. In the Tyrrhenian Sea, the resulting nutrient fluxes bring upward from deep waters 5 μmol/m2/d in nitrate, which represents one fourth of LIW fertilization by diapycnal diffusion, but remains a secondary contributor to the enrichment of Ionian water inflows.

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Taillandier Vincent, Prieur Louis, D'Ortenzio Fabrizio, Ribera D'Alcala Maurizio, Pulido-Villena Elvira (2020). Profiling float observation of thermohaline staircases in the western Mediterranean Sea and impact on nutrient fluxes. Biogeosciences, 17(13), 3343-3366. Publisher's official version : , Open Access version :