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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 463:23-37 (2012)  -  DOI:

Phytoplankton photosynthetic capacity in a shallow estuary: environmental correlates and interannual variation

Charles L. Gallegos*

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, PO Box 28, Edgewater, Maryland 21037, USA

ABSTRACT: Parameters in the photosynthesis−irradiance (P-E) relationship of phytoplankton were measured at weekly to bi-weekly intervals for 20 yr at 6 stations on the Rhode River, Maryland (USA). Variability in the light-saturated photosynthetic rate, PBmax, was partitioned into interannual, seasonal, and spatial components. The seasonal component of the variance was greatest, followed by interannual and then spatial. Physiological models of PBmax based on balanced growth or photoacclimation predicted the overall mean and most of the range, but not individual observations, and failed to capture important features of the seasonal and interannual variability. PBmax correlated most strongly with temperature and the concentration of dissolved inorganic carbon (IC), with lesser correlations with chlorophyll a, diffuse attenuation coefficient, and a principal component of the species composition. In statistical models, temperature and IC correlated best with the seasonal pattern, but temperature peaked in late July, out of phase with PBmax, which peaked in September, coincident with the maximum in monthly averaged IC concentration. In contrast with the seasonal pattern, temperature did not contribute to interannual variation, which instead was governed by IC and the additional lesser correlates. Spatial variation was relatively weak and uncorrelated with ancillary measurements. The results demonstrate that both the overall distribution of PBmax and its relationship with environmental correlates may vary from year to year. Coefficients in empirical statistical models became stable after including 7 to 10 yr of data. The main correlates of PBmax are amenable to automated monitoring, so that future estimates of primary production might be made without labor-intensive incubations.

KEY WORDS: Phytoplankton · Photosynthesis · Primary production · Estuary · Rhode River · Interannual variability

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Cite this article as: Gallegos CL (2012) Phytoplankton photosynthetic capacity in a shallow estuary: environmental correlates and interannual variation. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 463:23-37.

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