The spring phytoplankton bloom is the main event influencing ecosystem richness in the pelagic realm of the Northwestern Mediterranean Sea (NW Med Sea). The Marine Strategy Framework Directive requires the achievement of a good ecological status for the pelagic habitat, and phytoplankton bloom phenology has been used as an indicator of the status of offshore waters. In this work we investigate interannual changes in the timing and magnitude of the phytoplankton bloom in the NW Med Sea, using phenological metrics. Daily maps of Chl-a concentration from 1998 to 2022 obtained by CMEMS were used to analyse bloom phenological metrics in 5 representative sites in the area. Chlorophyll-a data from 1998 to 2007 were used for determining the climatological behaviour, while 2008–2022 was identified as the study period. For this latter period, yearly spring bloom were identified and interannual variability and overall trends were analysed for each of the phenological metrics considered. Winter oceanographic and meteorological data were analysed to investigate possible correlations with the subsequent spring bloom. The frequency of anomalous years is increasing, both for bloom intensity and sea temperature. Bloom analysis revealed a negative trend only in some areas, but a steep decrease in the last 7 years was noticeable for all sites considered. Correlations of the Chl-a concentration during bloom with oceanographic variables revealed the importance of temperature, both marine and atmospheric, while Mixed Layer Depth played a lesser role. This work contributes to a better understanding of the dynamics of an area already under severe threat from human activities.

F. Grossi, M. Lagasio, A. Napoli, A. Provenzale, P. Tepsich, Phytoplankton spring bloom in the NW Mediterranean Sea under climate change, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 914, 2024, 169884, ISSN 0048-9697,