Nutrient distributions in baroclinic eddies of the oligotrophic North Atlantic and inferred impacts on biology

Qian P. Li, Dennis A. Hansell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


High-sensitivity (nanomolar) techniques for nitrate and phosphate were applied to study nutrient patterns in the euphotic zone of mesoscale eddies in the Sargasso Sea during the EDDIES project. Surface concentrations of nitrate plus nitrite (DNN) and phosphate (DIP) were found in the range of 1-20 nM with substantial spatial variability in the eddies, with resulting mean N:P molar ratios of ≤2.1. Chlorophyll biomass was well correlated with DNN but not DIP in the upper euphotic zone, suggesting N-limitation of marine phytoplankton at this time of year. Within the upper 140 m, the water column experienced a transition from a P-enriched (relative to Redfield ratio) shallow layer to a N-enriched deep layer, which may suggest downward transport and subsequent remineralization of high N/P biogenic products presumably originating from N2 fixation. Chlorophyll biomass in the deep chlorophyll maximum of eddies was found to be tightly related to eddy-induced variability in major nutrients (N, P, Si) and nutrient stoichiometry, suggesting that the impact of eddies on biology is through control of nutrient availability. Because the eddies were likely to be in various phases of development (different degrees of both biological and physical maturity), full interpretation of eddy data and dynamics will require better coverage of a full eddy life cycle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1291-1299
Number of pages9
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Issue number10-13
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Diatom
  • Mesoscale eddies
  • Nitrate
  • North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre
  • Phosphate
  • Silicate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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