Heterogeneous distribution of plankton within the mixed layer and its implications for bloom formation in tropical seas
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Intensive sampling at the coastal waters of the central Red Sea during a period of thermal stratification, prior to the main seasonal bloom during winter, showed that vertical patches of prokaryotes and microplankton developed and persisted for several days within the apparently density uniform upper layer. These vertical structures were most likely the result of in situ growth and mortality (e.g., grazing) rather than physical or behavioural aggregation. Simulating a mixing event by adding nutrient-rich deep water abruptly triggered dense phytoplankton blooms in the nutrient-poor environment of the upper layer. These findings suggest that vertical structures within the mixed layer provide critical seeding stocks that can rapidly exploit nutrient influx during mixing, leading to winter bloom formation.