, Volume 109, Issue 2, pp 321-334

Interannual variability in the spring phytoplankton bloom in Auke Bay, Alaska

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Data on phytoplankton primary production, biomass, and species composition were collected during a 5 yr (1985–1989) study of Auke Bay, Alaska. The data were used to examine the interannual differences in the timing, duration, and magnitude of the spring phytoplankton blooms during each year and to relate these differences to interannual variations in weather patterns. Within any given year, a pre-bloom phase was characterized by low available light, low rates of primary production, low biomass, and predominantly small (<10µm) diatoms. During the primary bloom, integrated production rates rose to 4 to 4.5 g C m−2 d−1, and integrated biomass levels reached 415 to 972 mg chlorophyll m−2. Primary blooms were usually dominated by large diatoms (Thalassiosira spp.), and in a single year (1989) byChaetoceros spp. The primary blooms terminated upon nutrient depletion in the euphotic zone. Secondary blooms, triggered by nutrient resupply from below, occurred sporadically after the primary bloom and accounted for 4 to 31% of total spring production. The date of initiation and the duration of the primary bloom varied little from year to year (standard deviation 3 and 5 d, respectively). Seasonal production rates and biomass levels varied interannually by a factor of 2 to 3. In contrast, intra-annual variations of more than an order of magnitude, especially in biomass, occurred over periods as short as 10 d. These large variations over short time periods indicate the importance of synchronous timing between spring blooms and the production of larval fish and shellfish, which depend on an appropriate and adequate food supply for growth and survival. Parameters describing primary production (e.g. peak daily production, mean daily production, and total production during the primary bloom and the entire season) exhibited little interannual variation (coefficient of variation, CV = 10 to 19%), but a large degree of intra-annual variation (CV = 77 to 116%). Similarly, interannual variations in biomass (peak chlorophyll, mean chlorophyll) were also lower (CV = 20 to 33%) than intra-annual variations (CV = 85 to 120%).

Communicated by M. G. Hadfield, Honolulu