MEPS 249:93-105 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps249093

Alongshore and temporal variability in chlorophyll a concentration in Chilean nearshore waters

Evie A. Wieters1,*, D. M. Kaplan1,4, S. A. Navarrete1, A. Sotomayor1, J. Largier2, K. J. Nielsen3, F. Véliz1

1Estación Costera de Investigaciones Marinas, Departamento de Ecología and Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology and Biodiversity, P. Universidad Católica de Chile, Casilla 114-D, Santiago, Chile
2Integrative Oceanography Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0209, USA
3Department of Zoology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA
4Present address: Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA

ABSTRACT: Phytoplankton and particulate organic matter constitute the primary food source for adult filter-feeders, as well as for larval stages of many benthic and pelagic organisms. The structure and dynamics of nearshore benthic communities may be associated with variation in nearshore primary production. However, we know little about the scales of variability in phytoplankton in nearshore waters along open coasts, or about their causes. To characterize spatial and temporal patterns of chl a concentration, we conducted 2.5 yr of daily, shore-based monitoring at 3 sites separated by 10s of km within an upwelling region in central Chile. We found that: (1) peaks in chl a concentration were typically short-lived, persisting no longer than 4 d, (2) blooms occurred in spring to early summer months at all sites, but also during autumn months at 1 site (Las Cruces), and (3) the intensity and frequency of blooms were consistently different among sites; highest concentrations were at Las Cruces, lower at El Quisco, and the lowest at Quintay. Analyses of wind data and surface temperature, and inspection of Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) satellite images, suggested that among-site differences were due, at least in part, to alongshore variation in upwelling intensity and the formation of warm-water pockets or upwelling shadows in sections of the coast, such as Las Cruces. In contrast to the spatial pattern described offshore and over larger spatial scales, chl a concentrations were significantly lower at the coldest site, Quintay, located at the core of an upwelling center (Pta. Curaumilla), than at the warmer site of Las Cruces, which lies downstream from upwelling. Day-to-day variation in chl a levels during spring at Las Cruces seems related to the alongshore intrusion of waters upwelled upstream. Overall, the pattern observed at our 3 sites, together with previous studies at other upwelling systems, suggests that sections of the coast around 15 to 20 km downstream (equatorward) from upwelling centers could exhibit consistently higher phytoplankton concentrations than sites located in front of upwelling centers, generating a source-sink type of geographic pattern of nearshore nutrients and phytoplankton along the coast.


KEY WORDS: Phytoplankton · Chl a · Nearshore oceanography · Upwelling · Upwelling shadow


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