Phytoplankton phenology and size structure are key ecological indicators that influence the survival and recruitment of higher trophic levels, marine food web structure, and biogeochemical cycling. For example, the presence of larger phytoplankton cells supports food chains that ultimately contribute to fisheries resources. Monitoring these indicators can thus provide important information to help understand the response of marine ecosystems to environmental change. In this study, we apply the phytoplankton size model of Gittings et al. (2019b) to 20-years of satellite-derived ocean colour observations in the northern and central Red Sea, and investigate interannual variability in phenology metrics for large phytoplankton (>2 µm in cell diameter). Large phytoplankton consistently bloom in the winter. However, the timing of bloom initiation and termination (in autumn and spring, respectively) varies between years. In the autumn/winter of 2002/2003, we detected a phytoplankton bloom, which initiated ~8 weeks earlier and lasted ~11 weeks longer than average. The event was linked with an eddy dipole in the central Red Sea, which increased nutrient availability and enhanced the growth of large phytoplankton. The earlier timing of food availability directly impacted the recruitment success of higher trophic levels, as represented by the maximum catch of two commercially important fisheries (Sardinella
spp. and Teuthida
) in the following year. The results of our analysis are essential for understanding trophic linkages between phytoplankton and fisheries and for marine management strategies in the Red Sea.
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