Defining mediterranean and black sea biogeochemical Subprovinces and synthetic ocean indicators using mesoscale oceanographic features

The Mediterranean and Black Seas are semi-enclosed basins characterized by high environmental variability and growing anthropogenic pressure. This has led to an increasing need for a bioregionalization of the oceanic environment at local and regional scales that can be used for managerial applications as a geographical reference. We aim to identify biogeochemical subprovinces within this domain, and develop synthetic indices of the key oceanographic dynamics of each subprovince to quantify baselines from which to assess variability and change. To do this, we compile a data set of 101 months (2002–2010) of a variety of both ‘‘classical’’ (i.e., sea surface temperature, surface chlorophyll-a, and bathymetry) and ‘‘mesoscale’’ (i.e., eddy kinetic energy, finite-size Lyapunov exponents, and surface frontal gradients) ocean features that we use to characterize the surface ocean variability. We employ a k-means clustering algorithm to objectively define biogeochemical subprovinces based on classical features, and, for the first time, on mesoscale features, and on a combination of both classical and mesoscale features. Principal components analysis is then performed on the oceanographic variables to define integrative indices to monitor the environmental changes within each resultant subprovince at monthly resolutions. Using both the classical and mesoscale features, we find five biogeochemical subprovinces for the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Interestingly, the use of mesoscale variables contributes highly in the delineation of the open ocean. The first axis of the principal component analysis is explained primarily by classical ocean features and the second axis is explained by mesoscale features. Biogeochemical subprovinces identified by the present study can be useful within the European management framework as an objective geographical framework of the Mediterranean and Black Seas, and the synthetic ocean indicators developed here can be used to monitor variability and long-term change.