Oceanographic forcing of phytoplankton dynamics in the coastal eastern Indian Ocean

Christine Hanson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

[Truncated abstract] This work was the first large-scale biological oceanographic study to be undertaken in the coastal eastern Indian Ocean adjacent to Western Australia, and covered both northwest (Exmouth Peninsula to the Abrolhos Islands) and southwest (Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin) regions. The study area was dominated by the Leeuwin Current (LC), an anomalous eastern boundary current that transports tropical water poleward and prevents deep nutrients from reaching the surface by creating large-scale downwelling. Indeed, LC and offshore waters were consistently associated with low nitrate concentrations and low phytoplankton biomass and production (< 200 mg C m-2 d-1). However, the physical forcing of the LC was offset, during the summer months, by upwelling associated with wind-driven inshore countercurrents (Ningaloo and Capes Currents), which provided a mechanism to access high nutrient concentrations normally confined to the base of the LC. ... Limited seasonal investigations off the Capes region of southwestern Australia showed that the winter production scenario can be very different than summer conditions, with strong Leeuwin Current flow that meanders onto the continental shelf and entrains seasonally nutrient-enriched shelf waters. However, production in the LC was still low (≤450 mg C m-2 d-1) due to light limitation resulting from both increased light attenuation and reduced surface irradiance characteristic of the winter months. This investigation provides fundamental knowledge on physical-biological coupling off Western Australia, with implications for fisheries management in view of seasonal and inter-annual variability in the strength of both the Leeuwin Current and inshore countercurrents.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2004

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