Spatial and seasonal evolution of dissolved oxygen and nutrients in the Southern Levantine Basin (Eastern Mediterranean Sea): Chemical characterization of the water masses and inferences on the N : P ratios

Nurit Kress, Barak Herut

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The spatial and seasonal variability of nutrients and dissolved oxygen concentrations as well as the chemical characterization of the different water masses of the Southern Levantine Basin were determined in detail. In summer, the upper 150 m of the water body was stratified and the cross basin distribution of dissolved oxygen and nutrients was fairly constant. Surficial waters were saturated with dissolved oxygen, and a shallow oxygen maximum (oversaturated) was present at about 80 m depth. Oversaturation was attributed mainly to the physical process of rapid capping and trapping of oxygen in the Atlantic water (AW) mass, with only 28% of the excess oxygen originating from biological production. Nutrient concentrations were very low and showed an increase in the intermediate levels, coupled with a decrease in oxygen. The winter cross-section distribution showed an upper mixed layer of 100 m, with dissolved oxygen and nutrient concentrations fairly constant across the basin. The concentration of nitrate was higher than in summer, while phosphate was slightly lower and silicic acid similar. In winter, the influence of the physical features (gyres) could be detected up to the surface, and in summer they were detected by the chemical properties in the 150-600 m layer. In the transition layer between the Levantine intermediate water (LIW) and the deep water (DW) (400-700 m) there was a gradual decrease in dissolved oxygen and an increase in nutrient concentrations eastwards. The DW showed no seasonal variation, only spatial variability: dissolved oxygen decreased and silicic acid increased eastwards. No differences were found in nitrate and phosphate concentrations between the DW in the western and eastern provinces, indicating the oxidation of organic matter poor in N and P. N : P ratios in the upper water masses were seasonally dependent. The largest variation was found in the Levantine surface water (LSW), from an average of 52 in winter to 5 in summer. It is hypothesized that the gradual decrease from winter to summer values was due mainly to preferential atmospheric input of N in winter and P in summer, together with biological consumption and differential regeneration of N and P. In the DW, the N : P ratios were constant throughout the year (25.2±2.7, n = 567), and higher than Redfield's ratio. It was speculated that the high N : P ratio in the DW was a result of oxidation of particulate organic matter deficient in P. The winter wet atmospheric input of N provided 12% of new N to the LSW. Average new production for the Southern Levantine Basin was estimated from the new N as 4.75 g Cm-2yr-1. The dry atmospheric contribution of P was estimated to significantly increase the P pool in the LSW. Dry deposition is not evenly distributed and occurs in episodic and localized events, which may have a large effect on productivity in the short periods when deposition occurs. There have been recently reported changes in the deep thermohaline circulation of the Eastern Mediterranean, with main contribution of the Aegean Sea as a source of DW. The data presented here can serve as a reference for assessing future changes in the chemical composition of the water masses in the Southern Levantine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2347-2372
Number of pages26
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to show our appreciation to Dr. A. Hecht, who introduced us to the POEM program and provided us with knowledge and data on the physical oceanography of the area. We thank the captain and crew of the R/V Shikmona for their devoted work at sea, Yaron Gertner for the dissolved oxygen determinations and Lara Izraelov for the determination of nutrients. The help of the physical oceanography and electronics departments at IOLR was invaluable. This work was part of the POEM multinational research and funded by the Israeli Ministry of Infrastructure. We thank the reviewers for their comments which helped improve the manuscript.


  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • N : P ratio
  • Nutrients
  • Oxygen
  • Seasonality
  • Seawater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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