MEPS 521:31-47 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11107

Phytoplankton community structure in the river‑influenced continental margin of the northern Gulf of Mexico

Sumit Chakraborty, Steven E. Lohrenz*

School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 706 Rodney French Blvd., New Bedford, Massachusetts 02744, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Phytoplankton community composition was characterized over varying seasonal and river discharge conditions during 5 research cruises across the continental margin of the northern Gulf of Mexico (NGOM). The spatial and temporal patterns of variation in the composition of the algal community were examined using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analyses of phytoplankton pigments in conjunction with classification using the CHEMTAX software (v.1.95). Cluster analysis and principal component analysis were used to identify different regimes and to understand the relationship of the phytoplankton community to biological and environmental variables. The large river dominated margin of the NGOM was characterized by (1) an estuarine and inner shelf regime dominated by diatoms, cryptophytes, cyanobacteria, and chlorophytes; (2) midshelf waters, a transition zone between coastal river-influenced and oligotrophic slope waters, associated with a mixed phytoplankton composition; and (3) a slope water regime typical of oligotrophic ocean conditions with a surface community dominated by cyanobacteria, haptophytes, and prochlorophytes. A chlorophyll fluorescence maximum (CFM) was a regular feature at offshore stations and showed significant differences from that of surface waters in seasonal variability of phytoplankton pigment ratios and community composition. Our findings support the view that large river outflows, along with other environmental variables such as wind forcing and stratification, have a profound influence on phytoplankton communities over a large regional extent in the continental margin waters of the NGOM.


KEY WORDS: Phytoplankton community · Northern Gulf of Mexico · Pigments · CHEMTAX · Environmental forcing · Stratification · Mixing · Large river ecosystem


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Cite this article as: Chakraborty S, Lohrenz SE (2015) Phytoplankton community structure in the river‑influenced continental margin of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 521:31-47. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11107

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