Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 40–53 | Cite as

Nutrients in the Western Wadden Sea: Freshwater Input Versus Internal Recycling

  • Catarina Leote
  • Lieke L. Mulder
  • Catharina J. M. Philippart
  • Eric H. G. Epping


At present, phosphorus (P) is seen as the main limiting nutrient for phytoplankton growth in the western Wadden Sea. Six cruises were performed for water sampling at selected stations covering a full tidal cycle for later determination of dissolved and particulate nutrient concentrations. The major P sources were identified on a seasonal basis, by comparing the contribution of freshwater discharge and sediment release, calculated in a previous study, to the concentrations in the water column. A close relationship was found between the pelagic concentrations of dissolved inorganic nutrients and chlorophyll a, with a concomitant decrease in nutrients and increase in chlorophyll. This was observed in early spring and was followed by a later increase in the nutrient concentrations in spring–summer. The low concentrations found for the freshwater and seawater end-members for this period ruled out their importance as nutrient sources, suggesting that this increase resulted mainly from internal recycling in the Wadden Sea. Even though P limitation was observed during most of the year, a potential seasonal change in the limiting nutrient, from P to silica, was observed. The comparison between P supply to the Wadden Sea by freshwater discharge and sediment release showed a much higher contribution of the latter, especially in April–November. To our knowledge, this is the first study clearly presenting internal recycling as the main nutrient source to the western Wadden Sea in spring–autumn, instead of freshwater discharge or the North Sea.


Nutrients Mineralization Wadden Sea Primary production Sorption Freshwater discharge 



This research was funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT PhD grant SFRH/BD/38856/2007) to CL, the P REDUCE project (NWO grant 839.08.342) to LLM, and the IN PLACE project (NWO grant 839.08.210). The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge the crews from the RV Navicula, RV Stern, and the IN PLACE team for their support. A thank you note is also due to Jan van Ooijen, Karel Bakker, Sharyn Crayford, and Evaline van Weerlee for all nutrient analyses performed by the NIOZ Nutrient Lab. We also thank Bert Brinkman and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and discussion.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catarina Leote
    • 1
  • Lieke L. Mulder
    • 2
  • Catharina J. M. Philippart
    • 1
  • Eric H. G. Epping
    • 1
  1. 1.Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)—Divison TexelDen BurgThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)—Division YersekeYersekeThe Netherlands

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