Dynamics, interactions and ecosystem implications of mesoscale eddies formed in the southern region of Madagascar

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Several species of marine organisms occurring off the southern African coast have been found to be identical to those occurring in the Madagascan coastal water although the reason for this is unknown. It has been proposed that eddies act as a vector of transport for planktonic larvae from the Madagascar island to the southern African east coast. In this study it is shown that eddies spawned off southern Madagascar entrain chlorophyll-a rich coastal waters into their periphery. This is indicative of the mechanism whereby organisms could become entrained in eddies. Approximately one eddy per year, usually cyclonic, interacts with the southern Madagascan coast, then from its origin crosses the southern Mozambique Channel and arrives at the African coast where it dissipates. By tracking eddies and combining their trajectories with drifter data and satellite remote sensing observations of ocean colour, it is shown that chlorophyll-a rich waters are entrained within the eddies, and these waters are mostly conserved during their passage across the channel. This study suggests that biota may be transported from Madagascar to Africa in eddies, providing further evidence that eddies are potentially a viable mechanism for the transport of organisms across the southern Mozambique Channel.

Includes bibliographical references.