THE DYNAMICS OF SUSPENDED PARTICLES IN A SEASONALLY STRATIFIED COASTAL SEA
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A comprehensive investigation into the relationship between physical forcing and sus- pended particles in the shallow shelf region of the Western English Channel has been conducted, in order to evaluate the temporal dynamics of suspended particle populations. Measurements were taken across tidal cycles and seasons at station L4, part of the Western Channel Observatory (WCO), using the combination of a free-fall microstructure profiler and holographic imaging. Confirmation that L4 is weakly stratified is given, and that the formation of the seasonal thermocline is substantially altered by the spring-neap cy- cle. Stratification is variable and prone to periodic and partial erosion from atmospheric forcing during any point in any season. L4 undergoes moderate turbulent dissipation, principally as a result of tidal forcing. Typically, values of ε do not exceed 10−4 W kg−1 . L4 also exhibits tidal asymmetry, chiefly in response to stratification which, albeit weak, is frequently able to suppress turbulence when generated from the sea bed. The potential energy anomaly is small at L4, as expected for a weakly-stratified environment. Maxi- mum values in summer were shown to not exceed 50 J m−3 . Values of bed stress, τ0 , are rarely greater than around 0.18 N m−2 . Nonetheless, the critical erosion threshold falls below this, and is therefore smaller than that observed in similar locations around the UK. Seasonality in the amount of material resuspended from the seabed is important at L4. The presence of certain biological particles strongly influence particle size and may also determine if a given particle is lifted from the bed. Particles ≥ 200 μm are relatively rare, the site is dominated by particles smaller than this value in line with many other UK sites. Under certain conditions the theoretical maximum limit of particle size, the Kolmogorov length scale, does not hold and many examples of occasions when this threshold is exceeded are shown. This may generate important consequences in subsequent work undertaken at this site and other temperate shelf locations globally, particularly as these results indicate that maximum particle size appears to be governed less by the size of the local turbulent eddies and more by the presence of biological particles. This is another key seasonal component to particle dynamics in the Western English Channel. Phytoplankton populations are readily advected into and out of the L4 site, calling into question the current sampling strategy of the WCO to rely exclusively upon point measurements. Small increases in atmospheric forcing have the ability to rapidly disperse patches of phytoplankton, possibly to the point of cell mortality. Traditional sampling techniques for assessing zooplankton density have been shown to radically underestimate the number of animals present at L4, which will increase error estimates on current ecosystem models.
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