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Battelle Environment Matters

Battelle Environment Matters

Variability of Winter-Spring Bloom Phaeocystis Pouchetti Abundance in Massachusetts Bay

By David G. Borkman, P. Scott Libby, Michael J. Mickelson, Jefferson T. Turner, Mingshun Jiang

Abundance of the prymnesiophyte Phaeocystis pouchetti was quantified via light microscopy at 2-week to monthly intervals in Massachusetts Bay (southern Gulf of Maine, NW Atlantic) during 1992–2012. Variability in the abundance and seasonal cycle of Phaeocystis are described and synoptic hydrographic, nutrient, and meteorological data were analyzed to identify factors that may influence Phaeocystis abundance. The maximum Phaeocystisabundance was 14 × 106 cells L−1 (10 Apr 2008). It was frequently (5 of 8 years) absent prior to year 2000, but not thereafter. Seasonally, it first appeared in February to early March, reached peak abundance in mid-April, and persisted until May or early June for a duration of 0–112 days (mean 34 days). A long-term alternation between Phaeocystis and centric diatom abundance was apparent, suggesting winter-spring selection of either Phaeocystis or centric diatoms. Phytoplankton community analysis suggested that blooms affected the rest of the phytoplankton community. Phaeocystis blooms were manifest as a substantial increase in particulate nutrients above normal levels. Phaeocystis blooms were preceded in February by a slightly elevated concentration of NO3 (9.3 vs. 6.5 μM when absent) and PO4(0.99 vs. 0.79 μM when absent). Blooms were also preceded by elevated ratios of NO3/PO4, NO3/Si, and PO4/Si, and warmer, saltier waters reflecting reduced river discharge. The correlation with salinity and river discharge suggests that Phaeocystis bloom variability is partially determined by annually varying circulation processes that determine the degree of low nutrient, low salinity coastal water intrusion into Massachusetts Bay.

Read the full paper in Estuaries and Coasts.