A Numerical Model Analysis of the Mean and Seasonal Nitrogen Budget on the Northeast U.S. Shelf

TitleA Numerical Model Analysis of the Mean and Seasonal Nitrogen Budget on the Northeast U.S. Shelf
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsZhang, S, Stock, CA, Curchitser, EN, Dussin, R
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Type of ArticleJournal Article

The supply of nitrogen is a primary limiting factor for the productivity of the Northeast United States (NEUS) continental shelf. In this study, a 12-year (1996–2007) retrospective physical-biogeochemical simulation over the Northwest Atlantic was used to analyze the mean and seasonal NEUS shelf nitrogen budget, including the connections between shelf subregions: the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank (GoM/GB), and the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB). The model captures the primary mean and seasonal patterns of shelf circulation, nitrate, and plankton dynamics. Results confirm aspects of previous nitrogen budget analyses, including the dominance of offshore nitrogen influxes into the GoM/GB and the prominent role of riverine influxes and sedimentary denitrification in the MAB. However, detailed spatiotemporal analysis of nitrogen fluxes highlights the importance of dispersed inflows of shallow to intermediate depth waters (0–75 m), which can at times exceed the deep nitrogen influx emphasized in previous studies. A seasonal analysis shows a pronounced shift from the net import of nitrogen to the GoM/GB region during late fall and winter, to the net export of nitrogen from the region in the spring and early summer. The MAB, in contrast, consistently exports nitrogen to offshore waters. The prominence of the 0-75m nitrogen supply has implications for the roles of Labrador Slope Water and Atlantic Temperate Slope Water on the NEUS ecosystems, as Atlantic Temperate Slope Water has greater nitrate concentrations than Labrador Slope Water at depth but often less at the surface. Results suggest the need for further study of shallow to intermediate depth inflows beyond those from the Scotian Shelf, particularly during the fall/winter of net nitrogen inflow.


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