MEPS 157:13-19 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/meps157013

Nutrient and phytoplankton dynamics in two mangrove tidal creeks of the Indus River delta, Pakistan

P. J. Harrison1,*, N. Khan2, K. Yin1, M. Saleem2, N. Bano2, M. Nisa2, S. I. Ahmed3, N. Rizvi2, F. Azam4

1Department of Earth & Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z4
2National Institute of Oceanography, S.T. 47, Block 1, Clifton, Karachi, Pakistan
3School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA
4Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, La Jolla, California 92093, USA

We report the results of a 3 yr study on 2 tidal creeks in the northwest corner of the Indus River delta (Pakistan) mangrove ecosystem. We measured light (extinction coefficients), nutrients (nitrate, nitrite, phosphate, silicate and ammonium), chlorophyll a (chl a), suspended load, primary productivity (14C uptake) and phytoplankton species in Isaro and Gharo Creeks. There was no clear seasonal cycle in any of the 5 nutrients in either of the 2 tidal creeks. NO3 ranged from 1 to 8 µM, NH4 from 2 to 15 µM, SiO4 from 3 to 20 µM, and PO4 from 0.2 to 2 µM (except when it was undetectable during a bloom in Isaro Creek in June). Hence, nitrogen and silicate do not limit primary productivity, but during a large bloom phosphate may become limiting. When phosphate samples were reanalyzed without removing the sediment (no filtration), phosphate concentrations were about 25% higher. This suggests that phosphate is adsorbed to sediment particles and could potentially be biologically available. There was a high suspended load (100 to 180 mg l-1) because the sediments were fine (silt and clay) and they were kept suspended by high tidal currents (0.5 to 1.5 m s-1) caused by tidal ranges of up to 4 m during spring tides in these shallow (3 to 9 m deep) creeks. Hence, extinction coefficients were very high (1 to 2 m-1) and the 1% light depth ranged from <1 m in August (the rainy season) to about 4 m in January and February. Consequently, primary productivity appeared to be light-limited throughout the year. Chl a ranged from 1 to 4 µg l-1 with occasional blooms up to 40 µg l-1. Primary productivity ranged from 0.2 to over 1 g C m-2 d-1 in Isaro Creek. There was no apparent seasonal cycle in chl a or primary productivity. Phytoplankton species were predominantly large centric diatoms which were presumably kept in suspension by tidal currents. Since nutrients are rarely limiting, there is an export of nutrients from the creeks to the coastal area which may stimulate phytoplankton productivity.


Nutrients · Phytoplankton · Mangroves · Tidal creeks · Indus River delta · Seasonal cycle · Primary productivity


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