MEPS 235:15-28 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps235015

Physico-biogeochemical controls on benthic pelagic coupling of nutrient fluxes and recycling in a coastal upwelling system

Andrew W. Dale1,2,*, Ricardo Prego1

1Marine Biogeochemistry Research Group, Institute of Marine Research (CSIC), 6 Eduardo Cabello, 36208 Vigo, Spain
2Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL4 8AA, United Kingdom
*Present address: Dept of Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, United Kingdom. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Sediment incubation microcosms, multitrap apparatus and water column variables have been employed to describe the dynamic changes in benthic-pelagic coupling between nutrient pools in the Pontevedra ria, NW Spain, during spring and summer 1998. A comparison of the chemical characteristics of suspended and bed sediment together with sediment nutrient effluxes revealed that particulate organic nitrogen and carbon were progressively depleted upon transit through the nutrient pools. The main fate of particulate organic nitrogen reaching the bed sediment is denitrification, although resuspension is also important. An estimate of net denitrification (Dnet) was made at 2 muddy sites in the ria with a mass balance at the benthic boundary layer. First-order approximations calculate Dnet to be 178 and 182 µmolN m-2 h-1 at the 2 stations, and agree well with previous modelling estimates. Denitrification is highest when upwelling relaxes and the flux of organic matter to the sediment increases. Regular inputs of offshore water ensure water renewal and re-oxygenation of bottom waters, thus preventing anoxia, particularly in the summer. With upwelling, large quantities of ammonium are effluxed to the water column (250 µmolNH4+ m-2 h-1), probably as a result of the bed sediment resuspension engendered by upwelling and stirring of phytodetrital fluff held in suspension as neutrally buoyant material above the sediment surface. We hypothesise that hydrodynamical processes play an important role in determining the quantity of nutrients remineralised in the Pontevedra ria and, in the case of nitrogen, the rate of denitrification at the benthic boundary layer.

KEY WORDS: Upwelling · Denitrification · Nitrogen · Sediment · Hydrodynamics · Benthic-pelagic coupling · Pontevedra ria · Galicia

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