Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 93–103 | Cite as

Plankton Assemblage Variability in a River-Dominated Temperate Estuary During Late Spring (High-flow) and Late Summer (Low-flow) Periods

  • J. K. Breckenridge
  • S. M. Bollens
  • G. Rollwagen-Bollens
  • G. C. Roegner


Seasonally variable freshwater flows are known to influence estuarine plankton assemblages. There has been little recent study of the plankton dynamics of the Columbia River Estuary (CRE), a large, river-dominated estuary that has experienced great modification to its hydrological cycle. Zooplankton (>75 μm) were collected during four late spring (high-flow) cruises and three late summer (low-flow) cruises in 2005 and 2006. Surface-water microplankton (5–200 μm) were collected during cruises in 2005. Zooplankton and phytoplankton assemblage composition varied along an axial salinity gradient and between flow periods. Estuarine zooplankton were strongly seasonal and dominated by the calanoid copepod Eurytemora affinis in the late spring, high-flow period and by the invasive calanoid Pseudodiaptomus forbesi in the late summer, low-flow period. The phytoplankton assemblage was dominated by freshwater diatoms, primarily Aulacoseira spp. The ciliate Mesodinium rubrum (=Myrionecta rubra) reached high densities during the low-flow period, but otherwise, distinct high-flow and low-flow phytoplankton assemblages were not detected. Comparison to prior studies in the CRE suggests that the plankton assemblage composition during the low-flow period has undergone considerable change, which may in turn have important trophic implications.


Zooplankton Microplankton Columbia River Estuary Freshwater flow Non-indigenous species Copepods Mesodinium Pseudodiaptomus 



We thank R. vanden Hooff, A. Gibson, O. Kalata, J. Zimmerman, L. MacLellan, I. McComas, and K. Olsen for their efforts in sample collection and processing, and Dr. D. Jay for lending his knowledge on circulation within the estuary. We also greatly appreciate the assistance of Captain Gene Bock and crew of the M/V Forerunner.

Supplementary material

12237_2014_9820_MOESM1_ESM.eps (256 kb)
Online Resource 1 Dendrograms generated by cluster analysis for a mesozooplankton, 1.17 % chaining, and b microplankton, 1.69 % chaining. Chaining is a measure of the sequential addition of smaller groups to a small number of larger groups. Highly chained dendrograms are not useful in defining clusters (McCune and Mefford 2002). Labels indicate the cluster affiliation of each sample (EPS 256 kb)
12237_2014_9820_Fig7_ESM.gif (101 kb)

High Resolution Image (GIF 100 kb)

12237_2014_9820_MOESM2_ESM.doc (207 kb)
ESM 2 (DOC 207 kb)


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. K. Breckenridge
    • 1
    • 2
  • S. M. Bollens
    • 1
  • G. Rollwagen-Bollens
    • 1
  • G. C. Roegner
    • 3
  1. 1.School of the EnvironmentWashington State UniversityVancouverUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric ScienceUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.NOAA Fisheries, Northwest Fisheries Science CenterPoint Adams Research StationHammondUSA

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