, Volume 98, Issue 1-3, pp 101-113
Date: 24 Sep 2009

Pelagic community respiration on the continental shelf off Georgia, USA

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The South Atlantic Bight (SAB) has been a focus for the study of continental shelf ecosystem respiration during the past two decades. However, two questions concerning respiration in this area have yet to be answered. First, why do previous estimates of respiration in the SAB exceed measured carbon fixation rates by almost an order of magnitude? Second, considering that bacteria are responsible for most of the pelagic community respiration in the SAB, why is respiration almost uniform from the coastline to the shelf break, while bacterial production estimates decrease offshore? This study addresses these critical questions by presenting new pelagic community respiration data that were collected across the entire width of the continental shelf off Georgia, USA from June 2003 to May 2006. The respiration was calculated as in vitro changes of dissolved oxygen and dissolved inorganic carbon concentrations during deck incubations. The measured respiration rates ranged from 0.3(±0.1) to 21.2(±1.4) mmol m−3 day−1. They followed a clear seasonal pattern, being lowest over the entire shelf in winter and reaching maxima in summer. Summertime respiration rates were highest on the inner shelf and decreased with distance offshore. Consistent with this trend, bacterial abundance measurements taken during the sampling month of July 2005 followed a pattern of seaward decline. The SAB organic carbon fluxes calculated from the respiration data are close to the estimates for primary production, which resolves a long-standing mystery regarding perceived carbon imbalance in the SAB.