MEPS 118:255-266 (1995)  -  doi:10.3354/meps118255

Spatial and temporal distribution of tropical phytoplankton species and biomass in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia

Burford, M. A., Rothlisberg, P. C., Wang, Y.

The biomass and species composition of tropical phytoplankton in Albatross Bay, Gulf of Carpentaria, northern Australia, were examined monthly for 6 yr (1986 to 1992). Chlorophyll a (chl a) concentrations were highest (2 to 5.7 ug l-1) in the wet season at inshore sites, usually coinciding with low salinities (30 to 33 ppt) and high temperatures (29 to 32*C). At the offshore sites chl a concentrations were lower (0.2 to 2 ug l-1) and did not vary seasonally. Nitrate and phosphate concentrations were generally low (0 to 3.68 uM and 0.09 to 3 uM for nitrate and phosphate respectively), whereas silicate was present in concentrations in the range 0.19 to 13 uM. The phytoplankton community was dominated by diatoms, particularly at the inshore sites, as determined by a combination of microscopic and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) pigment analyses. At the offshore sites the proportion of green flagellates increased. The cyanobacterium genus Trichodesmium and the diatom genera Chaetoceros, Rhizosolenia, Bacteriastrum and Thalassionema dominated the phytoplankton caught in 37 um mesh nets; however, in contrast to many other coastal areas studied worldwide there was no distinct species succession of the diatoms and only Trichodesmium showed seasonal changes in abundance. This reflects a stable phytoplankton community in waters without pulses of physical and chemical disturbances. These results are discussed in the context of the commercial prawn fishery in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the possible effect of phytoplankton on prawn larval growth and survival.

Tropical phytoplankton . Biomass . Community . Seasonal changes . Gulf of Carpentaria

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