Metabolic balance of coastal Antarctic waters revealed by autonomous pCO2 and Δo2/Ar measurements

Philippe D. Tortell, Elizabeth C. Asher, Hugh W. Ducklow, Johanna A.L. Goldman, John W.H. Dacey, Joseph J. Grzymski, Jodi N. Young, Sven A. Kranz, Kim S. Bernard, Francois M. M. Morel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


We use autonomous gas measurements to examine the metabolic balance (photosynthesis minus respiration) of coastal Antarctic waters during the spring/summer growth season. Our observations capture the development of a massive phytoplankton bloom and reveal striking variability in pCO2 and biological oxygen saturation (ΔO2/Ar) resulting from large shifts in community metabolism on time scales ranging from hours to weeks. Diel oscillations in surface gases are used to derive a high-resolution time series of net community production (NCP) that is consistent with 14C-based primary productivity estimates and with the observed seasonal evolution of phytoplankton biomass. A combination of physical mixing, grazing, and light availability appears to drive variability in coastal Antarctic NCP, leading to strong shifts between net autotrophy and heterotrophy on various time scales. Our approach provides insight into the metabolic responses of polar ocean ecosystems to environmental forcing and could be employed to autonomously detect climate-dependent changes in marine primary productivity. Key Points Metabolic balance of Antarctic waters is highly dynamic over various time scalesAutonomous methods can capture biological variabilityLight availability and grazing control summer time net community production

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6803-6810
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 16 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • Antarctica
  • CO2
  • DO2/Ar
  • net community production
  • photosynthesis
  • respiration


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