Mesoscale and high-frequency variability of macroscopic particles (> 100 μm) in the Ross Sea and its relevance for late-season particulate carbon export

Alexander B. Bochdansky, Melissa A. Clouse, Dennis A. Hansell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The Ross Sea plays a major role in the transfer of organic carbon from the surface into the deep sea due to the combination of high seasonal productivity and Antarctic bottom water formation. Here we present a particle inventory of the Ross Sea based on a combined deployment of a video particle profiler (VPP) and a high-resolution digital holographic microscope (DIHM). Long-distance (100 s of kilometers) and short-distance (10 s of kilometers) sections showed high variability of particle distributions that co-varied with the density structure of the water column. Particle export was apparent at sites of locally weakened pycnoclines, likely an indirect effect of nutrient mixing into the surface layer and local blooms that lead to export. Particle volume abundances at 200–300 m depth were highly correlated with particle volume abundances in the upper mixed layer (< 60 m), consistent with particles at depth primarily the result of export rather than lateral advection. Phaeocystis antarctica (Haptophyta) colonies that were initially retained in the mixed layer sank below the euphotic zone within a period of two weeks. Fine-scale analysis at a resolution < 1 m revealed a significantly overdispersed (i.e., highly patchy) environment in all casts. Patchiness, as determined by the Lloyd index of patchiness and the Index of Aggregation, increased in and below the pycnocline presumably due to aggregation of particles while accumulating on density gradients. In contrast, particles in the upper mixed layer and in the nepheloid layers were more randomly distributed. In 40 of the 84 VPP depth profiles, a periodicity of particle peaks ranged from 10 to 90 m with a mode of 30 m, which can be regarded as the “relevant scale” or “characteristic patch size” of the vertical distribution of particles. While chlorophyll fluorescence and particle mass determined by VPP were significantly correlated at higher particle abundances, the relationship changed from cast to cast, reflecting changes in the relative contribution of fresh phytoplankton to total particle mass. Particles that sank below the main pycnocline were composed of phytoplankton, marine snow with and without embedded phytoplankton, crustacean plankton, and a surprisingly high percentage of heterotrophic (and perhaps mixotrophic) protists, such as acantharians and tintinnids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-131
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Marine Systems
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Antarctica
  • Digital holographic microscope
  • Heterogeneity
  • Marine snow
  • Mesoscale variability
  • Particulate flux
  • Patchiness
  • Phytoplankton
  • Ross Sea
  • Spatial variations
  • Vertical distribution
  • Video particle profiler
  • Zooplankton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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