MEPS 178:133-144 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps178133

Phytoplankton and hydrography of the Kennebec estuary, Maine, USA

Ming Wah Wong, David W. Townsend*

School of Marine Sciences, 5741 Libby Hall, University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469-5741, USA
*Addressee for correspondence. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: The biomass, abundance and species composition of phytoplankton in the Kennebec estuary, Maine, USA, were investigated in relation to hydrography and light regime during 7 seasonal survey cruises. The salinity distribution ranged from 32 at the mouth to between 0 and 5 at the head, depending on the magnitude of freshwater discharge at the time of each survey. Maximum vertical salinity and temperature gradients were observed at the mouth, while local tidal mixing, combined with the freshwater flow, produced a well-mixed water column at the head of the estuary. The middle portion of the estuary was stratified on flooding and ebbing tides, but was vertically well mixed at high and low tides. Phytoplankton biomass was lowest in winter (chlorophyll a ~= 1 µg l-1) and highest in summer (up to 10 µg l-1). The phytoplankton species assemblages at the seaward and the riverine ends of the estuary were made up of taxa with corresponding salinity preferences. Both cell numbers and biomass (chlorophyll a) exhibited a bimodal distribution along the length of the estuary in the warmer months, with the middle portions of the estuary having depressed phytoplankton standing stocks compared with the seaward and landward ends. This bimodal distribution was related to light limitation and nutrient regeneration in the middle portion of the estuary and to the production of and advective contributions of phytoplankton from both the freshwater and seaward ends.


KEY WORDS: Kennebec estuary · Maine · Phytoplankton · Light · Chlorophyll · Hydrography


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