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  1. Abstract

    Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) are considered a keystone species for higher trophic level predators along the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) during the austral summer. The connectivity of krill may play a critical role in predator biogeography, especially for central-place foragers such as thePygoscelisspp. penguins that breed along the WAP during the austral summer. Antarctic krill are also heavily fished commercially; therefore, understanding population connectivity of krill is critical to effective management. Here, we used a physical ocean model to examine adult krill connectivity in this region using simulated krill with realistic diel vertical migration behaviors across four austral summers. Our results indicate that krill north and south of Low Island and the southern Bransfield Strait are nearly isolated from each other and that persistent current features play a role in this lack of inter-region connectivity. Transit and entrainment times were not correlated with penguin populations at the large spatial scales examined. However, long transit times and reduced entrainment correlate spatially with the areas where krill fishing is most intense, which heightens the risk that krill fishing may lead to limited krill availability for predators.

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  2. Weddell seals ( Leptonychotes weddellii ) are important predators in the Southern Ocean and are among the best-studied pinnipeds on Earth, yet much still needs to be learned about their year-round movements and foraging behaviour. Using biologgers, we tagged 62 post-moult Weddell seals in McMurdo Sound and vicinity between 2010 and 2012. Generalized additive mixed models were used to (i) explain and predict the probability of seal presence and foraging behaviour from eight environmental variables, and (ii) examine foraging behaviour in relation to dive metrics. Foraging probability was highest in winter and lowest in summer, and foraging occurred mostly in the water column or just above the bottom; across all seasons, seals preferentially exploited the shallow banks and deeper troughs of the Ross Sea, the latter providing a pathway for Circumpolar Deep Water to flow onto the shelf. In addition, the probability of Weddell seal occurrence and foraging increased with increasing bathymetric slope and where water depth was typically less than 600 m. Although the probability of occurrence was higher closer to the shelf break, foraging was higher in areas closer to shore and over banks. This study highlights the importance of overwinter foraging for recouping body mass lost during the previous summer. 
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  3. Abstract

    Upward advection or mixing of iron‐rich deep waters due to circulation changes driven by the rate of basal ice shelf melt was shown to be a primary control on chlorophyllaproduction in coastal polynyas over the Antarctic continental shelf. Here, the effects of atmospheric changes projected in 2100 on this relationship were examined with a 5‐km resolution ocean/sea ice/ice shelf model of the Southern Ocean with different simulated dissolved iron sources and idealized biological uptake. The atmospheric changes are added as idealized increments to the forcing. Inclusion of a poleward shift and strengthening of the winds, increased precipitation, and warmer atmospheric temperatures resulted in doubling of the heat advected onto the continental shelf and an 83% increase in the total Antarctic ice shelf basal melt. The total dissolved iron supply to the surface waters over the continental shelf increased by 62%, while the surface iron supply due just to basal melt driven overturning increased by 48%. However, even though the ice shelf driven contribution becomes less important to the total iron supply on average (29% of total), the ice shelf involvement becomes relatively even more important in some locations, such as the Amundsen and Bellingshausen Seas. The modified atmospheric conditions also produced a reduction in summer sea ice extent and a shoaling of the summer mixed layers. These simulated responses to projected changes suggest relief of light and nutrient limitation for phytoplankton blooms over the Antarctic continental shelf and perhaps an increase in annual production in years to come.

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  4. Abstract

    The continental shelf of the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is characterized by strong along‐shore hydrographic gradients resulting from the distinct influences of the warm Bellingshausen Sea to the south and the cold Weddell Sea water flooding Bransfield Strait to the north. These gradients modulate the spatial structure of glacier retreat and are correlated with other physical and biochemical variability along the shelf, but their structure and dynamics remain poorly understood. Here, the magnitude, spatial structure, seasonal‐to‐interannual variability, and driving mechanisms of along‐shore exchange are investigated using the output of a high‐resolution numerical model and with hydrographic data collected in Palmer Deep. The analyses reveal a pronounced seasonal cycle of along‐shore transport, with a net flux (7.0 × 105 m3/s) of cold water toward the central WAP (cWAP) in winter, which reverses in summer with a net flow (5.2 × 105 m3/s) of Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) and modified CDW (mCDW) toward Bransfield Strait. Significant interannual variability is found as the pathway of a coastal current transporting Weddell‐sourced water along the WAP shelf is modulated by wind forcing. When the Southern Annual Mode (SAM) is positive during winter, stronger upwelling‐favorable winds dominate in Bransfield Strait, leading to offshore advection of the Weddell‐sourced water. Negative SAM leads to weaker upwelling‐ or downwelling‐favorable winds and enhanced flooding of the cWAP with cold water from Bransfield Strait. This process can result in significant (0.5°C below 200 m) cooling of the continental shelf around Palmer Station, highlighting that along‐shore exchange is critical in modulating the hydrographic properties along the WAP.

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  5. Abstract

    The Southern Ocean is characterized by high eddy activity and high particulate organic carbon (POC) content during summer, especially near Antarctica. Because it encircles the globe, it provides a pathway for inter‐basin exchange. Here, we use satellite observations and a high‐resolution ocean model to quantify offshore transport of coastal water rich in POC off the West Antarctic Peninsula. We show that nonlinear cyclonic eddies generated near the coast often trap coastal water rich in POC during formation before propagating offshore. As a result, cyclones found offshore that were generated near the coast have on average higher POC content in their interior than cyclones generated locally offshore. This results in a POC enrichment of 5.7 ± 3.0 Gg C year−1in offshore waters off the Peninsula. Actual POC enrichment is likely substantially larger, since about half of the volume transport of coastal water is driven by small eddies that are missed by observations.

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  6. Abstract

    Oceanic heat strongly influences the glaciers and ice shelves along West Antarctica. Prior studies show that the subsurface onshore heat flux from the Southern Ocean on the shelf occurs through deep, glacially carved channels. The mechanisms enabling the export of colder shelf waters to the open ocean, however, have not been determined. Here, we use ocean glider measurements collected near the mouth of Marguerite Trough (MT), west Antarctic Peninsula, to reveal shelf‐modified cold waters on the slope over a deep (2,700 m) offshore topographic bank. The shelf hydrographic sections show subsurface cold features (θ<=1.5 °C), and associated potential vorticity fields suggest a significant instability‐driven eddy field. Output from a high‐resolution numerical model reveals offshore export modulated by small (6 km), cold‐cored, cyclonic eddies preferentially generated along the slope and at the mouth of MT. While baroclinic and barotropic instabilities appear active in the surrounding open ocean, the former is suppressed along the steep shelf slopes, while the latter appears enhanced. Altimetry and model output reveal the mean slope flow splitting to form an offshore branch over the bank, which eventually forms a large (116 km wide) persistent lee eddy, and an onshore branch in MT. The offshore flow forms a pathway for the small cold‐cored eddies to move offshore, where they contribute significantly to cooling over the bank, including the large lee eddy. These results suggest eddy fluxes, and topographically modulated flows are key mechanisms for shelf water export along this shelf, just as they are for the shoreward warm water transport.

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  7. Abstract

    Previous studies showed that satellite‐derived estimates of chlorophyllain coastal polynyas over the Antarctic continental shelf are correlated with the basal melt rate of adjacent ice shelves. A 5‐km resolution ocean/sea ice/ice shelf model of the Southern Ocean is used to examine mechanisms that supply the limiting micronutrient iron to Antarctic continental shelf surface waters. Four sources of dissolved iron are simulated with independent tracers, assumptions about the source iron concentration for each tracer, and an idealized summer biological uptake. Iron from ice shelf melt provides about 6% of the total dissolved iron in surface waters. The contribution from deep sources of iron on the shelf (sediments and Circumpolar Deep Water) is much larger at 71%. The relative contribution of dissolved iron supply from basal melt driven overturning circulation within ice shelf cavities is heterogeneous around Antarctica, but at some locations, such as the Amundsen Sea, it is the primary mechanism for transporting deep dissolved iron to the surface. Correlations between satellite chlorophyllain coastal polynyas around Antarctica and simulated dissolved iron confirm the previous suggestion that productivity of the polynyas is linked to the basal melt of adjacent ice shelves. This correlation is the result of upward advection or mixing of iron‐rich deep waters due to circulation changes driven by ice shelf melt, rather than a direct influence of iron released from melting ice shelves. This dependence highlights the potential vulnerability of coastal Antarctic ecosystems to changes in ice shelf basal melt rates.

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