Variability in transport pathways on and around the South Georgia shelf, Southern Ocean: implications for recruitment and retention
The waters around South Georgia are among the most productive in the Southern Ocean, with zooplankton populations close to the island, in particular Antarctic krill, supporting vast colonies of higher predators. However, our understanding of the processes governing variability in the supply of these food resources is limited by the poor spatial and temporal resolution of available data. Here, we use a numerical modeling approach to examine the underlying physical processes driving the recruitment and retention of zooplankton to the South Georgia shelf. Variability in the magnitude and spatial distribution of recruitment was dominated by the proximity and orientation of the southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current front to the shelf edge. Shelf retention was highest for source sites on the southwest shelf, with the main transport routes off the shelf to the north and northwest. Retention was lowest in the austral summer and winter; in summer increased glacial melt drives stronger off-shelf near-surface currents, while in winter, stronger winds lead to an increase in off-shelf transport. Of particular note was the prediction of a significant increase in retention for particles released throughout the shelf in April and July 2000. This period coincided with the development of pronounced anticlockwise shelf flows, associated with horizontal density gradients due to reduced wind mixing of shelf waters, and differences between shelf and oceanic waters, which significantly reduced off-shelf transport rates. Such findings are crucial for understanding the influence of variability in physical processes on the ecosystem at South Georgia.
Authors: Young, Emma ORCID record for Emma Young, Thorpe, Sally ORCID record for Sally Thorpe, Banglawala, Neelofer, Murphy, Eugene ORCID record for Eugene Murphy