Drivers of the spatial phytoplankton gradient in estuarine–coastal systems: generic implications of a case study in a Dutch tidal bay

Long Jiang*, Theo Gerkema, Jacco C. Kromkamp, D. van der Wal, Pedro Manuel Carrasco De La Cruz, Karline Soetaert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

As the primary energy and carbon source in aquatic food webs, phytoplankton generally display spatial heterogeneity due to complicated biotic and abiotic controls; however our understanding of the causes of this spatial heterogeneity is challenging, as it involves multiple regulatory mechanisms. We applied a combination of field observation, numerical modeling, and remote sensing to display and interpret the spatial gradient of phytoplankton biomass in a Dutch tidal bay (the Eastern Scheldt) on the east coast of the North Sea. The 19 years (1995–2013) of monitoring data reveal a seaward increasing trend in chlorophyll-a (chl a) concentrations during the spring bloom. Using a calibrated and validated three-dimensional hydrodynamic–biogeochemical model, two idealized model scenarios were run: switching off the suspension feeders and halving the open-boundary nutrient and phytoplankton loading. Results reveal that bivalve grazing exerts a dominant control on phytoplankton in the bay and that the tidal import mainly influences algal biomass near the mouth. Satellite data captured a post-bloom snapshot that indicated the temporally variable phytoplankton distribution. Based on a literature review, we found five common spatial phytoplankton patterns in global estuarine–coastal ecosystems for comparison with the Eastern Scheldt case: seaward increasing, seaward decreasing, concave with a chlorophyll maximum, weak spatial gradients, and irregular patterns. We highlight the temporal variability of these spatial patterns and the importance of anthropogenic and environmental influences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 4135–4152
Number of pages18
JournalBiogeosciences
Volume17
Issue number16
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2020

Keywords

  • UT-I-ITC-WCC
  • ITC-ISI-JOURNAL-ARTICLE
  • ITC-GOLD

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