The western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is a bellwether of global climate change and natural laboratory for identifying interactions between climate and ecosystems. The Palmer Long‐Term Ecological Research (LTER) project has collected data on key ecological and environmental processes along the WAP since 1993. To better understand how key ecological parameters are changing across space and time, we developed a novel seascape classification approach based on in situ temperature, salinity, chlorophyll a, nitrate + nitrite, phosphate, and silicate. We anticipate that this approach will be broadly applicable to other geographical areas. Through the application of self‐organizing maps (SOMs), we identified eight recurrent seascape units (SUs) in these data. These SUs have strong fidelity to known regional water masses but with an additional layer of biogeochemical detail, allowing us to identify multiple distinct nutrient profiles in several water masses. To identify the temporal and spatial distribution of these SUs, we mapped them across the Palmer LTER sampling grid via objective mapping of the original parameters. Analysis of the abundance and distribution of SUs since 1993 suggests two year types characterized by the partitioning of chlorophyll a into SUs with different spatial characteristics. By developing generalized linear models for correlated, time‐lagged external drivers, we conclude that early spring sea ice conditions exert a strong influence on the distribution of chlorophyll a and nutrients along the WAP, but not necessarily the total chlorophyll a inventory. Because the distribution and density of phytoplankton biomass can have an impact on biomass transfer to the upper trophic levels, these results highlight anticipated links between the WAP marine ecosystem and climate.
Global Change Biology – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ; ;
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