, Volume 598, Issue 1, pp 59–75 | Cite as

The influence of upwelling, coastal currents and water temperature on the distribution of the red tide dinoflagellate, Noctiluca scintillans, along the east coast of Australia

  • Jocelyn Dela-CruzEmail author
  • Jason H. Middleton
  • Iain M. Suthers
Primary research paper


Quasi-synoptic surveys along the east coast of Australia between 28 and 34°S show that the heterotrophic dinoflagellate, Noctiluca scintillans, occurs along this entire stretch of the coast. Areas of relatively high abundance of Noctiluca were observed downstream of regions predisposed to current-induced upwellings as a consequence of alongshore topographic variations. High-resolution temporal and spatial sampling of upwelling events showed that Noctiluca was abundant (up to 28 cells l−1) within mature upwelled waters. A high proportion (>80%) of fed Noctiluca cells (cells with prey in their vacuoles) was observed in the mature upwelled waters indicating that the observed increase in abundance of Noctiluca was associated with increased feeding activity. The absolute abundance of Noctiluca in upwelled waters was, however, found to vary from one upwelling location to another and between seasons. In particular, highest abundances of Noctiluca were recorded south of 31.5°S, where the East Australian Current (EAC) characteristically separates from the coast. The high abundances partly arise from southward advection and retention of the Noctiluca cells, and partly from upwelling inshore of the separated EAC driven by cross-shelf boundary layer fluxes. The temperature of the EAC was also found to influence absolute abundances. Surface water temperatures during our summer cruise were anomalously high due to a strong La Niña phase, and up to 4°C warmer than during our spring cruise. We found that the warmer surface water temperatures were associated with relatively lower average abundances of Noctiluca in the near shore zone.


Noctiluca Upwelling East Australian Current Red tides La Niña 



The authors thank the crew and captain of the RV Franklin, and the scientific crew from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, for providing us with their relentless and enthusiastic support in the collection of this data. We also thank the scientific crew members from the University of New South Wales and the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority, especially Moninya Roughan, Augy Syahailatua, Richard Piola, Greg Nippard, David Ghisolfi, Anne-Marie Wong and Penny Ajani. We thank Steve Rutten and Matthew Taylor for their assistance in the analyses of field samples. This project was funded by the Australian Research Council through grants to Iain Suthers and Jason Middleton, and by an Australian Postgraduate Award (Industry) to Jocelyn Dela-Cruz.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jocelyn Dela-Cruz
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jason H. Middleton
    • 3
  • Iain M. Suthers
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological, Earth and Environmental ScienceUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate ChangeSydney SouthAustralia
  3. 3.School of MathematicsUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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