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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 195:1-14 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps195001

Nitrogen budget of Apalachicola Bay, a bar-built estuary in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico

Behzad Mortazavi1,*, Richard L. Iverson1, Wenrui Huang2, F. Graham Lewis3, Jane M. Caffrey4

1Department of Oceanography, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306-4320, USA 2FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, 2525 Pottsdamer St., Tallahassee, Florida 32310-6046, USA 3Northwest Florida Water Manag District, Route 1, Box 3100, Havana, Florida 32333-9700, USA 4Institute of Marine Science, University of California Santa Cruz, Earth & Marine Science Building, Santa Cruz, California 95604, USA

ABSTRACT: Apalachicola Bay, a bar-built, sub-tropical estuary in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico (GOM), USA, receives freshwater from the Apalachicola River and exchanges water with the GOM at 4 sites. The output from a 3-dimensional circulation model and nitrogen measurements in the river and the estuary over a 2 yr period were used to determine nitrogen input to the estuary and exchange with the GOM. The Apalachicola River was the major nitrogen source to the estuary and accounted for 92 and 73% of the total dissolved inorganic and organic nitrogen (DIN and DON) input, respectively. Nitrogen input from the GOM provided the remainder. DIN comprised 61% of total dissolved nitrogen (TDN) input to the estuary from the river and 26% of TDN input from the GOM. Maxima in TDN input to the estuary occurred during the high river-flow period (October to February). In contrast, TDN input minima occurred during the summer (May to September), when river flow was low. Benthic ammonium flux to the water column was maximum during the summer. However, it was not large enough to satisfy phytoplankton nitrogen demand during that period. The fraction of DIN input that was exported to the GOM increased linearly as estuarine water residence time decreased from 2 wk during summer to less than 3 d during winter. Seasonal nitrogen budgets indicated that DIN export to the GOM was maximum during winter (87 ± 5.4 mg N m-2 d-1) and minimum during summer (9 ± 1.4 mg N m-2 d-1). In contrast to the large decrease in DIN export to the GOM between these 2 periods, DON export to the GOM decreased from 81 ± 5.8 mg N m-2 d-1 during winter to only 45 ± 3.2 mg N m-2 d-1 during summer. Estimated denitrification rates indicated that 9% of the annual total nitrogen input to the estuary was removed by that mechanism. The f ratio in Apalachicola Bay varied from 0.11 during the summer to 0.74 during the winter and averaged 0.19 for a 2 yr period. On an annual basis, DON input to the estuary and export to the GOM were in balance, while 66% of DIN input to the estuary was exported to the GOM. The nitrogen budget for Apalachicola Bay was balanced to within 6% of total nitrogen input.

KEY WORDS: Estuary · Nitrogen budget · DIN · DON · New production · f ratio

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