PHYSIOLOGICAL MECHANISMS SUPPORTING HIGH NET PRIMARY PRODUCTIVITY IN THE COASTAL WESTERN ANTARCTIC PENINSULA
High latitude oceans are major contributors to global primary productivity with a large proportion of this productivity confined to continental shelf regions, e.g. the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), where intense phytoplankton blooms in the spring produces proportionally greater phytoplankton biomass compared to lower latitudes. This provides the basis for short but substantial food webs and results in a high degree of CO2 sequestration. Phytoplankton blooms in the WAP occur while water temperatures remains near freezing (~-1 °C). Recent fieldwork by our group over a six-month austral summer at Palmer Station in the WAP has uncovered a number of physiological strategies utilized by cold-water phytoplankton to enable such high net primary productivity despite cold temperatures. These strategies will be discussed in the context of the bloom and how these may change in the future due to rapidly rising temperatures in the WAP.