Spatial dynamics of surface chlorophyll concentrations, diatom abundance and carbon and nitrogen stable isotope signatures of surface suspended particulate matter (SPM) were investigated during a bloom event observed in March 2003 in the vicinity of the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands. The surface water composition was studied to estimate the overall importance and spatial extent of kelp derived SPM in the water column of the islands. It was observed that high chlorophyll concentrations (up to 2 mg m–3) between and downstream of the islands could not be explained by the development of the diatom bloom. Instead, microscopic and stable isotope analyses suggested that the chlorophyll signal was largely derived from the residual chlorophyll in fresh and decaying particles of small fragments of the kelp Macrocystis laevis, an endemic kelp species abundant along the shoreline of the islands. The findings of this study suggest that the dietary subsidy of kelp-derived carbon and nitrogen to benthic communities and possibly the plankton is not limited to the vicinity of kelp beds, but rather is a widespread phenomenon between the islands. Due to the dominating unidirectional Antarctic Circumpolar Current, large quantities of kelp-derived SPM may be transported and utilised tens of kilometres downstream of the islands.
- suspended particulate matter
- tropic subsidy