A Lagrangian approach to the Atlantic Jet entering the Mediterranean Sea : physical and biogeochemical characterization

Sala, Iria and Bolado-Penagos, Marina and Bartual, Ana and Bruno, Miguel and García, Carlos M. and López-Urrutia, Ángel and González-García, Cristina and Echevarría, Fidel (2022) A Lagrangian approach to the Atlantic Jet entering the Mediterranean Sea : physical and biogeochemical characterization. Journal of Marine Systems, 226. 103652. ISSN 0924-7963

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    The temporal evolution of the physical and biogeochemical properties of the Atlantic Jet (AJ) along the first ∼ 75 m of the water column during a 4-day journey was analysed by following the trajectory of a drifter dragged by the jet from the Strait of Gibraltar towards the Alborán Sea. Three stages were differentiated based on the evolution of several variables (e.g., velocity, temperature, nutrients, fluorescence). (i) Within the Strait of Gibraltar, the water column was primarily influenced by the tidal cycle, leading to a nutrient-enrichment of surface waters. However, due to the short residence time, the phytoplankton community that was mainly dominated by diatoms, did not demonstrate significant changes. (ii) Once outside the Strait, the drifter trajectory was mainly influenced by the frontal dynamics associated with the AJ. The drifter moved forward along the jet but also laterally across it and was continuously attracted to the mainstream (maximum current speed) or detached to its southern edge (minimum current speed). Due to the associated upwelling processes induced by the intensification of the current along the mainstream, the water column was characterized by colder, nutrient-richer water and lower fluorescence values. Conversely, along the southern edge of the jet, the water column was characterized by higher temperature, low nutrient concentration, and higher fluorescence. Along the first stations of this stage, diatom total abundance and biovolume continuously increased, reaching values ∼ 12-times higher than the initial concentrations. (iii) In the last stage, the water parcel was still influenced by the frontal dynamics but with less intensity. Additionally, the colder and denser water of the AJ and the associated phytoplankton community subducted progressively as it moved into the region surrounded by warmer waters. Concomitantly, fluorescence and diatoms total abundance and biovolume decreased and were influenced by the decline of nutrient availability and the increase of mesozooplankton. Our results reveal the coupled processes induced by the entrance of the AJ in the Alborán Sea and highlight the strong control of the physical environment over the ecological processes in this region.

    ORCID iDs

    Sala, Iria ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5018-3544, Bolado-Penagos, Marina, Bartual, Ana, Bruno, Miguel, García, Carlos M., López-Urrutia, Ángel, González-García, Cristina and Echevarría, Fidel;