, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 225-240
Date: 15 Nov 2012

Nutrient and Phytoplankton Analysis of a Mediterranean Coastal Area

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Identifying and quantifying the key anthropogenic nutrient input sources are essential to adopting management measures that can target input for maximum effect in controlling the phytoplankton biomass. In this study, three systems characterized by distinctive main nutrient sources were sampled along a Mediterranean coast transect. These sources were groundwater discharge in the Ahuir area, the Serpis river discharge in the Venecia area, and a submarine wastewater outfall 1,900 m from the coast. The study area includes factors considered important in determining a coastal area as a sensitive area: it has significant nutrient sources, tourism is a major source of income in the region, and it includes an area of high water residence time (Venecia area) which is affected by the harbor facilities and by wastewater discharges. We found that in the Ahuir and the submarine wastewater outfall areas, the effects of freshwater inputs were reduced because of a greater water exchange with the oligotrophic Mediterranean waters. On the other hand, in the Venecia area, the highest levels of nutrient concentration and phytoplankton biomass were attributed to the greatest water residence time. In this enclosed area, harmful dinoflagellates were detected (Alexandrium sp. and Dinophysis caudata). If the planned enlargement of the Gandia Harbor proceeds, it may increase the vulnerability of this system and provide the proper conditions of confinement for the dinoflagellate blooms’ development. Management measures should first target phosphorus inputs as this is the most potential-limiting nutrient in the Venecia area and comes from a point source that is easier to control. Finally, we recommend that harbor environmental management plans include regular monitoring of water quality in adjacent waters to identify adverse phytoplankton community changes.