Phytoplankton Dynamics within a Discrete Water Mass off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina: the Lagrangian Experiment

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As part of the Department of Energy Ocean Margins Program, we examined the spatial and temporal variability in primary production and phytoplankton pigments during two cruises to the shelf waters between the Chesapeake Bay and Cape Hatteras. The first cruise was conducted in March 1996, reflecting well-mixed conditions just prior to the spring transition, while the second cruise was conducted during July 1996 when the water column was more stratified. During each cruise, primary production and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) pigments for the whole community and <8-mum size fraction were determined for several successive days within a discrete water mass by following a near-surface tracking drogue. In March, production ranged from 0.50 to 0.65 g C m(-2) d(-1), with 52-62% of the production attributed to the smaller size fraction. About 50% of the total chlorophyll a (chl a) was found in the > 8-mum size fraction. Pigment composition was dominated by chlorophylls a, c(1) and c(2), and fucoxanthin, indicating the importance of diatoms. In July, production was more variable, ranging from 0.38 to 2.09 g C m(-2) d(-1), with 41-83% of production attributed to the <8-mum size fraction. Rates increased over the 4-day study. Most of the chi a was found in the <8-mum size fraction. The phytoplankton pigments were dominated by chi a and fucoxanthin with chlorophylls c(1) and c(2), again indicating the importance of diatoms during this cruise.CHEMTAX (Mackey et al. CHEMTAX User's Manual: a program for estimating class abundances from chemical markers-application to HPLC measurements of phytoplankton pigments. CSIRO Marine Laboratories, Report 229, Hobart, 42 pp.), a factor analysis computer program, was used to examine phytoplankton community structure using marker pigments from our HPLC analyses to determine the relative importance of various taxa. In March, diatoms dominated whole water samples, with consistent contributions from dinoflagellates and cryptophytes. The <8-mum fraction was dominated by small diatoms, chrysophytes, cryptophytes and dinoflagellates. In July, diatoms were still present and important, but prymnesiophytes, cryptophytes and cyanobacteria contributed in both size classes. Correlation analyses indicated that primary production was positively correlated with light and temperature. Chl a biomass was positively correlated with the concentrations of NO2 + NO3 and negatively correlated with temperature. These correlations support the observation that temperature played a major role in the phytoplankton dynamics in this shelf ecosystem. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography





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