GA06 Cruise Completed

The GA06 cruise, the UK GEOTRACES cruise in the Tropical Atlantic Ocean is now completed. The cruise (February 7-March 19, 2011) was part of a project funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council. The main aim of this project is to determine the supply of nutrients (including iron and phosphorus) to the microbial community in the surface ocean of the tropical Atlantic Ocean, and determine the uptake rates of iron and phosphorus by nitrogen fixers (diazotrophs). Diazotrophs form a key component of the community in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean, have a high iron requirement but also require phosphorus to grow. As part of the cruise we determined the supply of nutrients and other elements to the surface waters from the atmosphere (including Saharan dust), shelf sediments and deep waters (through vertical diffusion). Horizontal transport will be assessed using modelling approaches. 


As a result of engine problems with the RRS Discovery the first 11 days of the cruise were lost. The remaining 30 days were however very productive, and 20 deep stations for trace element and isotopes and 21 stations for biological measurements were sampled. Stations were occupied along an east-west 12° N transect starting at the shelf off Senegal. A second transect was sailed from 7°S to 20°N along 25-29°W. we observed an enhanced abundance of the diazotroph Trichodesmium just north of the equator, with numbers declining very sharply south of the equator corresponding with decreasing dissolved iron and increasing phosphate concentrations.  Dissolved iron, aluminium, macro and nanomolar nutrients, total alkalinity, dissolved inorganic carbon were analysed on-board ship. A lot of chemical and biological analyses are now to be undertaken in the home laboratories, with the data to be presented at meetings in the next 1-2 years.


Figure: GA06 Cruise Track

PI of the cruise: Eric Achterberg