|COMMUNITY WHITE PAPER||10.5270/OceanObs09.cwp.15|
New Insights into Southern Ocean Physical and Biological Processes Revealed by Instrumented Elephant Seals
J.-B. Charrassin(1), F. Roquet(1), Y.-H. Park(1), F. Bailleul(2), C. Guinet(2), M. Meredith(3), K. Nicholls(3), S. Thorpe(3), B. McDonald(4), D.P. Costa(4), I. Tremblay(5), M. Goebel(6), M. Muelbert(7), M.N. Bester(8), J. Plötz (9), H. Bornemann(10), R. Timmermann (11), M. Hindell(12), A. Meijers(13), R.C. Coleman(13), I.C. Field(14), C.R. McMahon(15), S.R. Rintoul(16), S. Sokolov(16), L. Boehme(17), P. Lovell(17), M.A. Fedak(17), M. Biuw(18), O.A. Nost(18), C. Lydersen(18), K.M. Kovacs(18)
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In recent years, the international "Southern Elephant seals as Oceanographic Samplers" (SEaOS) project has deployed miniaturized conductivity-temperature-depth satellite-relayed data loggers (CTD-SRDL) on elephant seals 1) to study their winter foraging ecology in relation to oceanographic conditions, and 2) to collect hydrographic data from polar regions, which are otherwise sparsely sampled. We summarize here the main results that have been published in both science components since 2003/2004. Instrumented southern elephant seals visit different regions within the Southern Ocean (frontal zones, continental shelf, and/or ice covered areas) and forage in a variety of different water masses (e.g. Circumpolar Deep Water upwelling regions, High Salinity Shelf Water), depending on their geographic distribution. Adult females and juvenile males from Kerguelen Is. forage pelagically in frontal zones of the Southern Indian Ocean, while adult males forage benthically over the Kerguelen Plateau and the Antarctic Continental Shelf, with the two groups feeding at different trophic levels as shown by stable isotopes analysis. Oceanographic studies using the data collected from the seals have, to date, concentrated on circumpolar and regional studies of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) circulation. The temperature and salinity profiles documented by elephant seals at high latitudes, including below sea ice, have permitted quasi-circumpolar mapping of the southernmost fronts of the ACC. By merging conventional data and the high temporal and spatial resolution data collected by seal-borne SRDLs, it has been possible to describe precisely 1) the large-scale features of the ACC in the South Atlantic and its variability; 2) the circulation pattern over the Kerguelen plateau, revealing that the poorly known Fawn Trough concentrates an important proportion of the ACC flow in that region. Seals that foraged in ice covered areas have made eulerian time series available that have allowed for the estimation of sea ice formation rates, a parameter that is otherwise difficult to obtain, while also providing a unique description of the wintertime ocean circulation over the central Weddell Sea continental shelf. Finally, we present the first data collected by a newly-developed fluorescence sensor that has been embedded in the regular CTD-SRDL and deployed on elephant seals at Kerguelen. The fluorometer data obtained have offered the first synoptic view of the 3 dimensional distribution of temperature, salinity and fluorescence over a vast sector of the Southern Indian Ocean, allowing us to describe both vertical and horizontal variations in chlorophyll.
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This paper shall be cited as:
Charrassin, J. & Co-Authors (2010). "New Insights into Southern Ocean Physical and Biological Processes Revealed by Instrumented Elephant Seals" in Proceedings of OceanObs’09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society (Vol. 2), Venice, Italy, 21-25 September 2009, Hall, J., Harrison, D.E. & Stammer, D., Eds., ESA Publication WPP-306, doi:10.5270/OceanObs09.cwp.15
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