In the Southern Ocean, inorganic macronutrients are very rarely depleted by phytoplankton growth. This has led to speculation on possible additional CO2 drawdown in this region. However, the effects of climate change can only be predicted once the role of environmental and biotic factors limiting phytoplankton carbon fixation are understood. It is clear that the Southern Ocean is heterogeneous, and no single factor controls prim ary production overall. Ice cover and vertical mixing influence algal growth rates by m odulating radiance flux. Micronutrients, especially iron, may limit growth in some areas. Primary production is also suppressed by high removal rates of algal biomass. Grazing by zooplankton is the major factor determining magnitude and quality of vertical particle flux. Several of the physical controls on phytoplankton production are sensitive to climate change. Although it is impossible to make numerical predictions of future change on the basis of our present knowledge, qualitative assessments can be put forward on the basis of model predictions of climate change and known factors controlling prim ary production. Changes in water temperature and in windinduced mixing are likely to be slight and have little effect. Model predictions of changes in sea-ice cover vary widely, making prediction of biogeochemical effects impossible. Even if climatic change induces increased nutrient uptake, there are several reasons to suspect that carbon sequestration will be ineffective in comparison with continuing anthropogenic CO2 emission.
Authors: Priddle, J., Smetacek, V., Bathmann, U., Stromberg, J.-O., Croxall, J. P.
1 November, 1992
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences / 338