The highest concentrations of algal cells (1.1 x l0 6 litre- 1 ) and of algal carbon (20 μg litre -1 ) were associated with a lens of ice melt water in the northeast of the study area. Phytoflagellates were dominant at all stations with greater numbers always in the 0 - 20 m surface layer and with the peaks of Cryptophyceae in the open waters and also near the ice edge east of 50° W. Picoplankton flagellates and monads (1.5-5.0 μ) were generally next in abundance and most important numerically in the near ice stations in the western part of the study area. Parasinophyceae were usually more abundant than Nitzschia cylindrus (Grunow) Hasle, the only common diatom species found mainly in the western near ice edge stations. The presence olN.cylindrus, dominant in the pack ice and in phytoplankton near the ice edge, shows that algae released from ice may act as an inoculum for the phytoplankton.
Surface phytoplankton samples were studied quantitatively and qualitatively in February 1996 - November 1998 and January 2003 - November 2005 at the shore and in the center of Admiralty Bay, King George Island. Phytoplankton assemblages showed spring-summer peaks (maxima 4.0-5.2×106 cells l-1) associated with small variations in low atmospheric pressure, and low velocity winds. They were dominated by nano-sized (<20 µm) flagellates and picoplankton (~2 µm). The prevalent nanoflagellates were either Prasinophyceae, Cryptophyceae, or Prymnesiophyceae. Diatoms were next in abundance. Of the seven spring-summer diatom blooms, five had initiated at the shore (maximum 9.8×105 cells l-1; November 1998). They were significantly greater than in the open water, and did not spread into the bay centre. Two observed open water blooms did not reach the shore. Diatoms formed up to 44% of the total cells in the period 1996-98; they only formed <5% in 2003-05. Shore and open water populations differed by diatom dominance structure. Pennates (Fragilariopsis spp., F. cylindrus, Pseudo-nitzschia spp.), and benthic species were prevalent at the shore; centrics (Thalassiosira spp., Chaetoceros socialis) were most common offshore. In 2003-05 diatoms were relatively impoverished in Chaetoceros spp. and the larger (>20 µm) Fragilariopsis spp. Nano-sized Thalassiosira spp. were the winter dominants. Diatom species dominance structure may change at each of the two sites within a month (e.g. shore site: F. cylindrus dominant in October ’98; T. gravida in November ’98). Dinoflagellates showed summer increases associated with diatom blooms. Variations in phytoplankton cell concentrations, the species structures between the shore and open waters, and between seasons appear to be related to physical factors: changes in wind velocity and direction, inflow of waters from the Bransfield Strait, ice melting and changes in atmospheric pressure.
Low concentrations of phytoplankton (average 2.5 x 104 to б.0 х 105 cells l-1) were found at ten stations surveyed in the region of the Weddell-Scotia Confluence. Phytoflagellates represented mainly by 1—3 μm picoplankton were prevalent among the algae, contributing 65—100% to the total numbers: this group is observed to dominate over diatoms in areas of intensive water mixing. Maximum concentrations of phytoplankton at one station, reaching down to 200 m, were due to a physical aggregation of cells by confluencing and downwelling waters. The average for the water column quantities of the same algal groups were nearly identical at most stations, but peak numbers occurred in the 0—75 m surface layer. Differences in diatom assemblages were associated with the complex hydrography of the WSC region.
Altogether 105 algal taxa were identified including 101 diatom species. Chaetoceros criophilus was dominant in the western part of the study area influenced by waters from the Bellingshausen Sea. Corethron criophilum was abundant in the Weddcll Sea water mass found to the east of 53.5°W meridian. Nitzschia cylindrus common in the ice-melt samples was dominant in only two net phytoplankton collections obtained at the ice-edge zone. Additional samples from Admiralty Bay, at King George Island revealed the dominance of Chaetoceros socialis and the presence of many tychoplankton species. Very few diatom cells were found in the open waters of the Bransfield Strait which combined with the presence of krill, suggested intensive grazing by herbivores. The unstable waters of the Weddell-Scotia Confluence area contained little phytoplankton except for a station dominated by Phaeocystis pouchetii. Greater cell densities were related to warm, lower salinity Weddell Sea water of summer modification found in the surface layer east from 49°W.
A year-round (3 March 1994 - 28 February 1995) phytoplankton study in Admiralty Bay revealed nanoplankton flagellates (< 20 μm) to be the major algae of the plankton, both in terms of cell numbers and carbon biomass. Their quantities fluctuated widely thoroughly the year showing several peaks, in May, April, December and January. Summer maximum of the group in December was mainly due to Cryptophyceae (4.9 x 106 cells l-1; 98.0 μg C 1-1) and Prasinophyceae (7.3 x 105 cells -1; 33.5 μg C -1). Diatoms were usually scarce (max. 6.8 x 105 cells -1; 7.82 p:g C 1-1) and were dominated by small species of Thalassiosira and by Nitzschia spp. (Pseudonitzschia); the domination structure somewhat differed from that observed in Admiralty Bay in the summer of 1977/78. Algal peaks were related to the surface water (4 m depth) temperature rise from +0.16 to +1.71˚C. Summer phytoplankton maxima were about 5-fold greater than those recorded in the summer of 1977/78.
Net phytoplankton cell numbers in 50 m water column of Admiralty Bay ranged between 0.2 x 10 5 x m-2 on 24 August 1990 and 2.3 x 10 7 x m-2 on 15 November 1990. Cluster analysis has confirmed the presence of two groups of samples: spring and summer ones (October to April), rich in cells and in species, and, on the other hand, winter samples (June to August) impoverished in algae. Spring and summer fluctuations of diatoms were mainly due to Corethron criophilum, Rhizosolenia alata and its varieties, R. hebetata f. semispina, Thalassiosira spp., Chaetoceros spp., and Nitzschia spp. (Fragilariopsis and Pseudonitzschia groups). The abundance and succession of species in Admiralty Bay reflect seasonal differences in diatom growth; they also reflect mixed populations of the Weddell and Bellingshausen seas entering Admiralty Bay via Bransfield Strait. Striking poverty of algae in some summer samples can most likely be attributed to zooplankton grazing.
Within the SIBEX study area greater concentrations of net-phytoplanklon biomass and numbers were found in waters with clearly defined physical characteristics of either Bellingshausen Sea (an area north and west of Anvers Island and northern part of the Bransfield Strait) or Weddell Sea (south eastern entrance to the Bransfield Strait). Low biomass and cell numbers occurred in the southern Drake Passage and in the south central Bransfield Strait, which in the latter case, appears to be a characteristic feature of ihsse waters during the entire phytoplankton growing season. Early summer blooms of Chaetoceros neglectus and C. tortissimum were mainly responsible for high values of phytoplankton biomass. Some diatoms, such as C. socialis were exclusively associated with Weddell Sea water; a replacement of one water type by another in the Bransfield Strait may considerably modify phytoplankton populations which are present there.