MEPS 197:67-80 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps197067

Dynamics of nutrient cycling and related benthic nutrient and oxygen fluxes during a spring phytoplankton bloom in South San Francisco Bay (USA)

Christian Grenz1,*, James E. Cloern2, Stephen W. Hager2, Brian E. Cole2

1Université de la Méditerrannée CNRS UMR 6535, LOB, rue de la Batterie des Lions, 13007 Marseille, France
2U.S. Geological Survey, MS496, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA

ABSTRACT: Benthic oxygen uptake and nutrient releases of N, P and Si were measured weekly at 2 sites in South San Francisco Bay around the 1996 spring bloom. Exchanges across the sediment-water interface were estimated from whole core incubations performed in the laboratory at in situ temperature and in dark. Fluxes changed significantly on a weekly time scale. Over a period of 15 wk the fluxes of dissolved inorganic N, P and Si ranged from -40 to +200, 0 to 13 and from 30 to 400 µmol m-2 h-1 respectively. Sediment oxygen demand increased from 10 before to 64 mg O2 m-2 h-1 just after the bloom period. During the bloom, nutrient fluxes represented about 20, 16 and 9% of the Si, P and N requirements for primary production. Before and after the bloom period, Si fluxes contributed up to 30 and >100% of this requirement and P and N fluxes up to 15 and 50% respectively. Simple empirical models explain most of the spatial-temporal variability of benthic fluxes of Si, P and NH4 (but not NO3) from 3 predictor variables: sediment porosity, nutrient concentration in bottom waters and chlorophyll content of surficial sediments. These models show that algal blooms influence benthic-pelagic nutrient exchange through 2 processes: (1) depletion of nutrients from the water column (which enhances gradient-driven transports across the sediment-water interface) and (2) sedimentation of labile phytodetritus (which promotes remineralization in or on the surficial sediments). Rates and patterns of nutrient cycling were very different at the shallow and deep study sites, illustrating the challenge of extrapolating measurements of coupled algae-nutrient dynamics to whole ecosystems.

KEY WORDS: Estuaries · Benthic fluxes · Nutrient cycling · Pelagic-benthic coupling · San Francisco Bay

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