• Phytoplankton and microbial plankton of the Northeast Atlantic Shelf

      Silke, J.; Kennington, K.; Bresnan, E.; Cusack, C. (ICES, 2012)
      The Northeast Atlantic Shelf region includes the sites from all coastal waters of Ireland, the Irish Sea, and western Scottish and Norwegian Sea waters. The region was defined by WGPME to include locations on the northern margin of Europe that were outside the North Sea/English Channel influence. The character of sites in the region are shallow, coastal-water sites ranging from sheltered bays on the south coast of Ireland and fjordic sea lochs of Scotland to fully exposed locations on the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland. Bathymetry of the region ranges from shallow embayments to regions of shallow, exposed continental-shelf waters. The topography of the shelf drops rapidly to 80–100 m within 20 km of the coast, where it extends to the shelf edge as a relatively flat plateau. Time-series of phytoplankton data from the Atlantic Shelf exhibit a typical seasonal pattern of temperate waters, with considerable geographical and temporal variation. The well-mixed winter conditions lead to a region-wide strong spring bloom observed at all sites. The ensuing decrease in nutrient levels lead to a variable summer period characterized by stratified conditions in coastal areas and periodic blooms of mixed or occasionally monospecific diatom and dinoflagellate composition. The growth period tails off in autumn, when a secondary bloom may occur in response to increased mixing and breakdown of the summer thermocline. The seasonal cycle returns to a quiescent winter phase, with generally mixed conditions, light limitation, and increased nutrients return. Seasonal stabilization and destabilization of the water column in this region accounts for most of the natural variation in both phytoplankton species composition and biomass.