Impacts of warming on phytoplankton abundance and phenology in a typical tropical marine ecosystem

John A. Gittings, Dionysios E. Raitsos, George Krokos, Ibrahim Hoteit*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Citations (SciVal)


In the tropics, thermal stratification (during warm conditions) may contribute to a shallowing of the mixed layer above the nutricline and a reduction in the transfer of nutrients to the surface lit-layer, ultimately limiting phytoplankton growth. Using remotely sensed observations and modelled datasets, we study such linkages in the northern Red Sea (NRS)-a typical tropical marine ecosystem. We assess the interannual variability (1998-2015) of both phytoplankton biomass and phenological indices (timing of bloom initiation, duration and termination) in relation to regional warming. We demonstrate that warmer conditions in the NRS are associated with substantially weaker winter phytoplankton blooms, which initiate later, terminate earlier and are shorter in their overall duration (∼ 4 weeks). These alterations are directly linked with the strength of atmospheric forcing (air-sea heat fluxes) and vertical stratification (mixed layer depth [MLD]). The interannual variability of sea surface temperature (SST) is found to be a good indicator of phytoplankton abundance, but appears to be less important for predicting bloom timing. These findings suggest that future climate warming scenarios may have a two-fold impact on phytoplankton growth in tropical marine ecosystems: 1) a reduction in phytoplankton abundance and 2) alterations in the timing of seasonal phytoplankton blooms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2240
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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