Nutrients, Irradiance, and Mixing as Factors Regulating Primary Production in Coastal Waters Impacted by the Mississippi River Plume

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Marine Science


Relationships among primary production, chlorophyll, nutrients, irradiance and mixing processes were examined along the salinity gradient in the Mississippi River outflow region. A series of six cruises were conducted during 1988-1992 at various times of year and stages of river discharge. Maximum values of biomass and primary production were typically observed at intermediate salinities and coincided with non-conservative decreases in nutrients along the salinity gradient. Highest values of productivity (>10 gC m(-2) d(-1)) and biomass (>30 mg chlorophyll a m(-3)) were observed in April 1988, July-August 1990 and April-May 1992; values were lower in March and September 1991. Rates of primary production were apparently constrained by low irradiance and mixing in the more turbid, low salinity regions of the plume, and by nutrient limitation outside the plume. Highest values of primary production occurred at stations where surface nutrient concentrations exhibited large deviations from conservative mixing relationships, indicating that depletion of nutrients was related to phytoplankton uptake. Mixing and advection were important in determining the location and magnitude of primary production maxima and nutrient depletion. In addition to growth within plume surface waters, enhanced growth and/or retention of biomass may have occurred in longer residence time waters at the plume edge and/or beneath the surface plume. Vertical structure of some plume stations revealed the presence of subsurface biomass maxima in intermediate salinity water that was depleted in nutrients presumably by uptake processes. Exchange between subsurface water and the surface plume apparently contributed to the reduction in nutrients at intermediate salinities in the surface layer. DIN (= nitrate + nitrite + ammonium) : PO4 ( = phosphate) ratios in river water varied seasonally, with high values in winter and spring and low values in late summer and fall. Periods of high DIN : PO4 ratios in river nutrients coincided with cruises when surface nutrient concentrations and their ratios indicated a high probability for P limitation. N limitation was more likely to occur at high salinities and during late summer and fall. Evidence for Si limitation was also found, particularly in spring. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Continental Shelf Research





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