Why No Red Tide Was Observed on the West Florida Continental Shelf in 2010

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anomalous upwelling, k. brevis red tide, shelf water properties

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Over the past two decades, the two most anomalous years for water properties on the west Florida continental shelf were 1998 and 2010. In both instances, the shelf was ventilated by relatively cold, nutrient-rich waters of deep ocean origin, which reset the background state underlying shelf ecology. The ventilation in both of these years derived from prolonged interactions of the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current with the shelf slope near the Dry Tortugas located on the southwest corner of the shelf. By contacting relatively shallow isobaths, the boundary current interactions there set the entire shelf into motion, facilitating upwelling across the shelf break, even to DeSoto Canyon some 500. km away, and then across the shelf to the near shore. Such prolonged and intense upwelling of nutrient-rich water in 2010 contrasted with the more typically occurring locally wind driven upwelling conditions, whereby waters upwelled at the near shore are from the inner shelf, versus the deep ocean. Thus not all upwelling scenarios have similar consequences. Whereas the typical wind driven upwelling scenario is necessary for Karenia brevis red tide blooms to manifest along the coastline, the rarer, deep ocean induced upwelling scenario (as occurred in 1998 and particularly in 2010) acts to suppress K. brevis red tides because of the elevated inorganic nutrient conditions that they facilitate. Hence, minimal cell counts above background were observed in 1998, and no cell counts above background were observed in 2010. We conclude that the lack of red tide along the west coast of Florida in 2010 was due to anomalously large and protracted upwelling of nutrient-rich waters of deep ocean origin caused by Loop Current and eddy interactions with the shelf slope.

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Harmful Algae, v. 38, p. 119-126