Fronts

The Bering Sea oceanographic structure is characterized by a series of fronts, sharp boundaries between different stratification types associated with enhanced horizontal gradients of water properties such as temperature, salinity, density, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, etc. These fronts are especially well documented in the southeastern Bering Sea that features three prominent fronts, inner, middle, and outer, that correspond roughly to the 50, 100, and 170 m (shelf break) isobaths, respectively. Tides are especially important over the Eastern Bering Sea Shelf, where strong tidal mixing fronts are observed to completely surround main islands of the Pribilof Archipelago. The fronts play a key role as principal biogeographical boundaries. They separate distinct biotopes and at the same time they are biotopes per se. The primary and secondary biological productivity is enhanced at fronts that attract fish, sea birds, and marine mammals, including whales. Much less is known, however, about the northern Bering Sea fronts that are related to the southeastern Bering Sea fronts, since the mean along-front flows are northwestward so that the northern fronts are essentially downstream extensions of the southern fronts. At the same time, the northern Bering Sea frontal pattern continues to the Chukchi Sea via Bering Strait. This connection is highly important: The Bering Slope Current associated with the shelf break front transports a large amount of nutrients and phyto-plankton to Anadyr Gulf, from where it is carried by the Anadyr Current to Chirikov Basin (north of St Lawrence Island) and eventually to the Chukchi Sea.

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