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Global Biogeochemical Cycles








Of all the Antarctic coastal polynyas, the Amundsen Sea Polynya is the most productive per unit area. Observations from the 2010-2011 Amundsen Sea Polynya International Research Expedition (ASPIRE) revealed that both light and iron can limit the growth of phytoplankton (Phaeocystis antarctica), but how these controls manifest over the bloom season is poorly understood, especially with respect to their climate sensitivity. Using a 1-D biogeochemical model, we examine the influence of light and iron limitation on the phytoplankton bloom and vertical carbon flux at 12 stations representing different bloom stages within the polynya. Model parameters are determined by Bayesian optimization and assimilation of ASPIRE observations. The model-data fit is most sensitive to phytoplankton physiological parameters, which among all model parameters are best constrained by the optimization. We find that the 1-D model captures the basic elements of the bloom observed during ASPIRE, despite some discrepancies between modeled and observed dissolved iron distributions. With this model, we explore the way iron availability, in combination with light availability, controlled the rise, peak, and decline of the bloom at the 12 stations. Modeled light limitation by self-shading is very strong, but iron is drawn down as the bloom rises, becoming limiting in combination with light as the bloom declines. These model results mechanistically confirm the importance of climate-sensitive controls like stratification and meltwater on phytoplankton bloom development and carbon export in this region.


This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non‐commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

Data Availability

Article states: "ROMS source code is available at ECMWF ERA‐Interim reanalysis data are available at and AMPS atmospheric data were provided by Ohio State University ( ASPIRE data used for this manuscript are available at BCO‐DMO (doi:10.1575/1912/bco‐dmo.765081.1). The model data used in the manuscript are also permanently archived at BCO‐DMO (https://www.bco‐"

Link to ASPIRE data that corresponds to the DOI as referenced in the article is:

Original Publication Citation

Oliver, H., St-Laurent, P., Sherrell, R. M., & Yager, P. L. (2019). Modeling iron and light controls on the summer Phaeocystis antarctica bloom in the Amundsen Sea Polynya. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 33(5), 570-596. doi:10.1029/2018GB006168


0000-0002-1700-9509 (St-Laurent)


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