Remote Sensing the Phytoplankton Seasonal Succession of the Red Sea

Dionysios E. Raitsos, Yaswant Pradhan, Robert J. W. Brewin, Georgiy L. Stenchikov, Ibrahim Hoteit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

224 Scopus citations


The Red Sea holds one of the most diverse marine ecosystems, primarily due to coral reefs. However, knowledge on large-scale phytoplankton dynamics is limited. Analysis of a 10-year high resolution Chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) dataset, along with remotely-sensed sea surface temperature and wind, provided a detailed description of the spatiotemporal seasonal succession of phytoplankton biomass in the Red Sea. Based on MODIS (Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) data, four distinct Red Sea provinces and seasons are suggested, covering the major patterns of surface phytoplankton production. The Red Sea Chl-a depicts a distinct seasonality with maximum concentrations seen during the winter time (attributed to vertical mixing in the north and wind-induced horizontal intrusion of nutrient-rich water in the south), and minimum concentrations during the summer (associated with strong seasonal stratification). The initiation of the seasonal succession occurs in autumn and lasts until early spring. However, weekly Chl-a seasonal succession data revealed that during the month of June, consistent anti-cyclonic eddies transfer nutrients and/or Chl-a to the open waters of the central Red Sea. This phenomenon occurs during the stratified nutrient depleted season, and thus could provide an important source of nutrients to the open waters. Remotely-sensed synoptic observations highlight that Chl-a does not increase regularly from north to south as previously thought. The Northern part of the Central Red Sea province appears to be the most oligotrophic area (opposed to southern and northern domains). This is likely due to the absence of strong mixing, which is apparent at the northern end of the Red Sea, and low nutrient intrusion in comparison with the southern end. Although the Red Sea is considered an oligotrophic sea, sporadic blooms occur that reach mesotrophic levels. The water temperature and the prevailing winds control the nutrient concentrations within the euphotic zone and enable the horizontal transportation of nutrients. © 2013 Raitsos et al.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e64909
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 5 2013

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine


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