Phytoplankton production patterns in Massachusetts Bay and the absence of the 1998 winter–spring bloom
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The seasonal productivity cycle and factors controlling annual variation in the timing and magnitude of the winter–spring bloom were examined for several locations (range: 42°20.35′–42°26.63′N; 70°44.19′–70°56.52′W) in Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay, USA, from 1995 to 1999, and compared with earlier published data (1992–1994). Primary productivity (mg C m−2 day−1) in Massachusetts Bay from 1995 to 1999 was generally characterized by a well-developed winter–spring bloom of several weeks duration, high but variable production during the summer, and a prominent fall bloom. The bulk of production (mg C m−3 day−1) typically occurred in the upper 15 m of the water column. At a nearby Boston Harbor station a gradual pattern of increasing areal production from winter through summer was more typical, with the bulk of production restricted to the upper 5 m. Annual productivity in Massachusetts Bay and Boston Harbor ranged from a low of 160 g C m−2 year−1 to a high of 787 g C m−2 year−1 from 1992 to 1999. Mean annual productivity was higher (mean=525 g C m−2 year−1) and more variable near the harbor entrance than in western Massachusetts Bay. At the harbor station productivity varied more than 3.5-fold (CV=40%) over an 8 year sampling period. Average annual productivity (305–419 g C m−2 year−1) and variability around the means (CV=25–27%) were lower at both the outer nearfield and central nearfield regions of Massachusetts Bay. Annual productivity in 1998 was unusually low at all three sites (<220 g C m−2 year−1) due to the absence of a winter–spring phytoplankton bloom. Potential factors influencing the occurrence of a spring bloom were investigated. Incident irradiance during the winter–spring period was not significantly different (P > 0.05) among years (1995–1999). The mean photic depth during the bloom period was significantly deeper (P < 0.05) in 1998, signifying greater light availability with depth. Nutrients were also in abundance during the winter–spring of 1998 with stratified conditions not observed until May. In general, the magnitude of the winter–spring bloom in Massachusetts Bay from 1995 to 1999 was significantly correlated with winter water temperature (r2=0.78) and zooplankton abundance (r2=0.74) over the bloom period (typically February–April). The absence of the 1998 bloom was associated with higher than average water temperature and elevated levels of zooplankton abundance just prior to, and during, the peak winter–spring bloom period.
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