, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 260-275

Spatial and temporal characteristics of nutrient and phytoplankton dynamics in the York River Estuary, Virginia: Analyses of long-term data

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Abstract

Ten years (1985–1994) of data were analyzed to investigate general patterns of phytoplankton and nutrient dynamics, and to identify major factors controlling those dynamics in the York River Estuary, Virginia. Algal blooms were observed during winter-spring followed by smaller summer blooms. Peak phytoplankton biomass during the winter-spring blooms occurred in the mid reach of the mesohaline zone whereas peak phytoplankton biomass during the summer bloom occurred in the tidal fresh-mesohaline transition zone. River discharge appears to be the major factor controlling the location and timing of the winter-spring blooms and the relative degree of potential N and P limitation. Phytoplankton biomass in tidal fresh water regions was limited by high flushing rates. Water residence time was less than cell doubling time during high flow seasons. Positive correlations between PAR at 1 m depth and chlorophylla suggested light limitation of phytoplankton in the tidal fresh-mesohaline transition zone. Relationships of salinity difference between surface and bottom water with chlorophylla distribution suggested the importance of tidal mixing for phytoplankton dynamics in the mesohaline zone. Accumulation of phytoplankton biomass in the mesohaline zone was generally controlled by N with the nutrient supply provided by benthic or bottom water remineralization.