Extreme Eutrophication in Shallow Estuaries and Lagoons of California Is Driven by a Unique Combination of Local Watershed Modifications That Trump Variability Associated with Wet and Dry Seasons
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- Kennison, R.L. & Fong, P. Estuaries and Coasts (2014) 37(Suppl 1): 164. doi:10.1007/s12237-013-9687-z
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Rapidly growing human populations have caused heavy modifications to the watersheds of many Mediterranean climate estuaries, subjecting them to excessive nutrient enrichment and harmful macroalgal blooms. Despite these impacts, comprehensive studies in these systems are rare and comparisons between systems are lacking. We surveyed five southern California estuaries that ranged in size from 93 to 1,000 ha and incorporated differing land usages and watershed sizes. We sampled environmental variables (sediment redox potential, organic content, total nitrogen and total phosphorus, water column nitrate, ammonium, and salinity) and macroalgal cover and biomass quarterly at three locations within each estuary over 15 months to compare spatial and wet vs. dry season patterns. Maximum mean water column nitrate concentration across all estuaries ranged from 47 to 1,700 μM, showing that all estuaries were highly enriched with nitrogen, at least at some times. Mean macroalgal biomass ranged from 0 to 1,500 g wet wt m−2. However, neither nutrient concentrations nor algal biomass showed consistent seasonal patterns as maximum values occurred in different seasons in different estuaries. Three-dimensional principal components analysis followed by regression analyses confirmed that macroalgal abundance was not directly related to water or sediment N concentrations. Rather each of these southern California estuaries showed individual patterns in all measured variables, which were most likely induced by a suite of physical modifications unique to each system and its watershed.