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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 637:29-43 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13245

Seasonal and interannual variability of phytoplankton abundance and community composition on the Central Coast of California

Alex Barth1, Ryan K. Walter2, Ian Robbins2, Alexis Pasulka1,*

1Biological Sciences Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407, USA
2Physics Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Variations in the abundance and composition of phytoplankton greatly impact ecosystem structure and function. Within the California Current System (CCS), phytoplankton community structure is tightly coupled to seasonal variability in wind-driven coastal upwelling, a process that drives changes in coastal water temperatures and nutrient concentrations. Based on approximately a decade (2008-2018) of weekly phytoplankton measurements, this study provides the first characterization of the seasonal and interannual variability of phytoplankton abundance and composition in San Luis Obispo (SLO) Bay, an understudied region within the CCS. Overall, the seasonality of phytoplankton in SLO Bay mirrored that of the larger CCS; diatoms dominated the community during the spring upwelling season, whereas dinoflagellates dominated the community during the fall relaxation period. While we observed considerable interannual variability among phytoplankton taxa, of particular note was the absence of a fall dinoflagellate-dominated period from 2010 through 2013, followed by the return of the fall dinoflagellate-dominated period in 2014. This compositional shift coincided with a major phase shift of both the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO). In addition to exerting a strong influence on the seasonality of phytoplankton community succession and transition between diatom- and dinoflagellate-dominated periods, the state of both the PDO and NPGO also influenced the extent to which environmental conditions (temperature and upwelling winds) could predict community type. These results highlight the importance of long-term datasets and the consideration of large-scale climate patterns when assessing local ecosystem dynamics.


KEY WORDS: Phytoplankton · Harmful algal bloom · Diatoms · Dinoflagellates · Pacific Decadal Oscillation · North Pacific Gyre Oscillation


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Cite this article as: Barth A, Walter RK, Robbins I, Pasulka A (2020) Seasonal and interannual variability of phytoplankton abundance and community composition on the Central Coast of California. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 637:29-43. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13245

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