The COPAS'08 expedition to the Patagonian Shelf: Physical and environmental conditions during the 2008 coccolithophore bloom

Stuart C. Painter*, Alex J. Poulton, John T. Allen, Rosalind Pidcock, William M. Balch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Here we present observations of the hydrography of the Patagonian Shelf, shelf break and offshore waters, with reference to the environmental conditions present during the period of peak coccolithophore abundance. Analysis of a hydrographic dataset collected in December 2008 (austral spring/summer), as part of the Coccolithophores of the Patagonian Shelf (COPAS) research cruise, identified 5 distinct surface water masses in the region between 37°S and 55°S. These water masses, identified through salinity gradients, displayed varying mixed layer depths, macronutrient inventories and chlorophyll- a fluorescence. Subantarctic Shelf Water (SSW), located to the north of the Falkland Islands and extending north along the shelf break, was also host to a large coccolithophore bloom. The similarities between the distribution of calcite, as seen in remote sensing data, and SSW indicate that the coccolithophore bloom encountered conditions conducive to bloom development within this water mass. Analysis of chemical and environmental data also collected during the COPAS cruise revealed that many of the commonly cited conditions for coccolithophore bloom development were present within SSW (e.g. low N:P ratio, high N:Si ratio, shallow mixed layer depth). In the other water masses present on the Patagonian Shelf greater variability in these same parameters may explain the more diffuse concentration of calcite, and the smaller size of possible coccolithophore blooms. The distribution of SSW is strongly influenced by the latitudinal variation in shelf break frontal width, which varies from 20 to 200. km, and consequently strong hydrographic controls underlie the position of the coccolithophore bloom during austral summer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1907-1923
Number of pages17
JournalContinental Shelf Research
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2010


  • Coccolithophore bloom
  • Hydrographic province
  • Patagonian Shelf

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Geology
  • Oceanography


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