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The dynamics of phytoplankton blooms in puget sound a fjord in the Northwestern United States


This paper describes a quantitative investigation of relationships between the growth of phytoplankton, and climatic and hydrodynamci conditions in temperate fjords with marked tides, as exemplified by Puget Sound, Washington (USA). Algal growth in the open waters of the central basin of the Sound is dominated by a number of intense blooms beginning in late April or May and recurring throughout the summer. Rarely, and only briefly, does nitrate become exhausted. The phytoplankton production rate in the central basin of Puget Sound is about 465 g C m-2 year-1. During the springs of 1966 and 1967, oceanographic measurements were carried out at a mid-channel station with sufficient frequency to allow investigation of physical and biological processes with time scales of the order of a day. The principal investigative tool is a numerical model in which the hydrodynamical conditions are represented by an approximate analysis of the gravitational convection mode of circulation. Algal concentration is represented as a continous function of space and time in the model which ascribes changes in phytoplankton density to variations in photosynthetic and respiratory activity, algal sinking, grazing by herbivores, and to mixing and advection. Computations adequately reproduce the principal features of phytoplankton concentrations observed during 75 days and 35 days in the springs of 1966 and 1967, respectively. Numerical experiments assess the relative importance of various processes which govern the level of primary production in Puget Sound. It is concluded that phytoplankton growth is limited by a combination of factors, including vertical advection and turbulence, modulation of underwater light intensity by self-shading and inorganic particulates, sinking of algal cells, and occasional rapid horizontal advection of the population from the area by sustained winds. The high primary productivity of the Sound is due to intensive upward transport of nitrate by the estuarine mechanism. These results should be generally applicable to other temperate fjords because of the largely conventional choice of the biological functions.

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Contribution No. 819 from the Department of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.

Communicated by J. Bunt, Miami and T. R. Parsons, Vancouver

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Winter, D.F., Banse, K. & Anderson, G.C. The dynamics of phytoplankton blooms in puget sound a fjord in the Northwestern United States. Mar. Biol. 29, 139–176 (1975). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00388986

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  • Phytoplankton
  • Advection
  • Central Basin
  • Horizontal Advection
  • Vertical Advection