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Revista chilena de historia natural

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Mesoscale primary production and bio-optical variability off Antofagasta (23-24º S) during the transition to El Niño 1997-1998. Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online]. 2002, vol.75, n.1, pp.201-215. ISSN 0716-078X.

The spatial variability of primary production (PP), chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) and the photosynthetic parameters were studied off Antofagasta, Chile (23-24ºS, 70-72º W) during austral summer and winter. Between cruises (January and July 1997), significant changes occurred in the water column, including higher temperatures in the euphotic zone (Zeu) deepening of thermocline below Zeu, an increase of oxygen concentration and the intrusion of Subtropical Waters with potential limitation of nutrients. These strong physical anomalies due to the transition period of El Niño 1997-1998 appeared in this study area during March 1997. During the July cruise, the El Niño event 1997-1998 was in the middle of its development (IOS-2). The hypothesis that chlorophyll-a concentrations and primary production differ significantly in the coastal areas in the Antofagasta region due to year-round coastal upwelling was tested in this study. Photosynthesis versus irradiance (P-E) experiments were performed daily, using simulated in situ incubations with samples collected within the Zeu. Also in vitro incubations were done at several selected stations. For results analyses, stations were pooled in coastal and oceanic sites according to distance from the narrow shelf and differential influence of local upwelling. Integrated Chl-a values during both cruises were significantly higher at the coastal stations, and since between cruises no differences were found, a mean value of 44 mg Chl-a m-2 can be reported for the coastal area. Daily PP values were significantly different in space and time (P < 0.001), and at the coast also between cruises (P < 0.004) as a result of the high mean coastal value in January, 3,129 mg C m-2 d-1 in comparison to 942 mg C m-2 d-1 in July. The attenuation coefficient kd of photosynthetic active radiation (PAR), determined a significant change in the mean depth of Zeu between coastal and oceanic stations (44 ± 20 and 80 ± 17 m, respectively) during both sampling periods. Notwithstanding the spatial differences in chlorophyll-a concentrations and primary production, the observed weaker upwelling favourable winds during both cruises, the increase in depth of the mixing layer and light limitation in July, and the higher mean values of zooplankton grazing rate during January contributed to the similar abundance of chlorophyll-a in time. Although the El Niño event could negatively affect primary production during July, prevailing space and seasonal variability masked this effect

Keywords : primary production; photosynthetic parameters; attenuation coefficient; euphotic zone; mixing depth; El Niño event 1997-1998.

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