Did the iron fertilization near Haida Gwaii in 2012 affect the pelagic lower trophic level ecosystem?

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Abstract

Deliberate fertilization of a patch of water west of Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, with iron sulphate and oxide occurred in summer 2012 and triggered a phytoplankton bloom strongly visible in satellite imagery in late August and detectable through September 2012. Routine sampling by the Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey from commercial ships occurred in the vicinity of the fertilized patch between April and October that year. Comparisons with samples from the same region in the years 2000–2011 showed that phytoplankton and microzooplankton abundance indices were the lowest recorded over the time series in the autumn of 2012, while crustacean zooplankton were higher than average, and often higher than previously recorded in the autumn. Possible other contributory factors are discussed but this evidence suggests that the iron-induced bloom could have caused an increase in zooplankton that in turn exerted a heavy grazing pressure on the large phytoplankton and microzooplankton by the autumn of 2012.

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