Dense waters (DW) formation in shelf areas and their cascading off the shelf break play a major role in ventilating deep waters, thus potentially affecting ecosystem functioning and biogeochemical cycles. However, whether DW flow across shelves may affect the composition and structure of plankton communities down to the seafloor and the particles transport over long distances has not been fully investigated. Following the 2012 north Adriatic Sea cold outbreak, DW masses were intercepted at ca. 460 km south the area of origin and compared to resident ones in term of plankton biomass partitioning (pico to micro size) and phytoplankton species composition. Results indicated a relatively higher contribution of heterotrophs in DW than in deep resident water masses, probably as result of DW-mediated advection of fresh organic matter available to consumers. DWs showed unusual high abundances of Skeletonema sp., a diatom that bloomed in the north Adriatic during DW formation. The Lagrangian numerical model set up on this diatom confirmed that DW flow could be an important mechanism for plankton/particles export to deep waters. We conclude that the predicted climate-induced variability in DW formation events could have the potential to affect the ecosystem functioning of the deeper part of the Mediterranean basin, even at significant distance from generation sites.
Scientific Reports – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 14, 2018
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