The reduction of plankton biomass induced by mesoscale stirring: A modeling study in the Benguela upwelling
Recent studies, both based on remote sensed data and coupled models, showed a reduction of biological productivity due to vigorous horizontal stirring in upwelling areas. In order to better understand this phenomenon, we consider a system of oceanic flow from the Benguela area coupled with a simple biogeochemical model of Nutrient-Phyto-Zooplankton (NPZ) type. For the flow three different surface velocity fields are considered: one derived from satellite altimetry data, and the other two from a regional numerical model at two different spatial resolutions. We compute horizontal particle dispersion in terms of Lyapunov exponents, and analyzed their correlations with phytoplankton concentrations. Our modeling approach confirms that in the south Benguela there is a reduction of biological activity when stirring is increased. Two-dimensional offshore advection and latitudinal difference in primary production, also mediated by the flow, seem to be the dominant processes involved. We estimate that mesoscale processes are responsible for 30-50% of the offshore fluxes of biological tracers. In the northern area, other factors not taken into account in our simulation are influencing the ecosystem. We suggest explanations for these results in the context of studies performed in other eastern boundary upwelling areas.