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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 426:105-118 (2011)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09002

Interannual variability in phytoplankton blooms and plankton productivity over the Nova Scotian Shelf and in the Gulf of Maine

Hongjun Song1,2, Rubao Ji2,3,*, Charles Stock4, Kelly Kearney5, Zongling Wang

1Key Lab of Science and Engineering for Marine Ecological Environment, The First Institute of Oceanography, SOA, Qingdao 266061, PR China
2Department of Biology, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
3Marine Ecosystem and Environment Laboratory, College of Marine Sciences, Institutes for Marine Sciences, Shanghai Ocean University, Shanghai 201306, PR China
4NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University Forrestal Campus, Princeton, New Jersey 08540, USA
5Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08540, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: A 1D ecosystem model, driven by surface heat and wind forcing and relaxed toward observed salinity profiles, was applied to simulate the interannual and decadal scale variability of phytoplankton blooms and plankton production from 1984 to 2007 in the Nova Scotian Shelf (NSS) and Gulf of Maine (GoM) region. The model captured the mean observed timing and magnitude of the spring (SPB) and fall phytoplankton bloom (FPB) in both systems, as well as observed interannual variations in SPB peak timing. Model simulations for both the GoM and NSS exhibited marked interannual variability in SPB and FPB timing (±2 to 3 wk) and magnitude (up to ~1 mg chlorophyll m–3). Earlier SPBs and delayed FPBs are linked to enhanced water column stability generated by less saline surface water or sharper salinity gradients over the top 50 m of the water column. The modeled variation in annual primary productivity, mesozooplankton productivity, and particle export flux was modest (<10% of the mean). Years with high primary production were weakly associated with early SPBs (GoM: r = –0.205; NSS: r = –0.51), but there was no significant relationship with water column stability. This suggests that variation in annual productivity in the GoM and NSS reflects a combination of variation in light limitation (which is alleviated by increased water column stability) and nutrient limitation (which is exacerbated by increased water column stability) that offset and are of near equal importance when averaged over the year. Interannual variations in fisheries production due to changes in annual productivity are thus likely secondary to profound shifts in fisheries recruitment and production that have been linked to variations in SPB and FPB timing.


KEY WORDS: Phytoplankton bloom · Interannual variability · Modeling · Nova Scotian Shelf · Gulf of Maine


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Cite this article as: Song H, Ji R, Stock C, Kearney K, Wang Z (2011) Interannual variability in phytoplankton blooms and plankton productivity over the Nova Scotian Shelf and in the Gulf of Maine. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 426:105-118. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09002

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