, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 287–300 | Cite as

A comparison of phytoplankton assemblages and environmental relationships in three estuarine rivers of the lower Chesapeake Bay

  • Harold G. Marshall
  • Raymond W. Alden


A 16-month data set of phytoplankton assemblages and environmental parameters were studied in the lower James, York (-Pamunkey), and Rappahannock rivers using several exploratory statistical approaches. Based on species composition and river station relationships, three site groups were established and subsequently identified as predominantly tidal fresh, oligo-mesohaline, and mesohaline sites. Phytoplankton assemblages within these rivers were influenced and subsequently augmented by the onset of the spring freshet which was different in 1986 and 1987. Five temporal assemblages of phytoplankters were also identified and designated into seasonal groupings of spring 1986, summer-fall, summer-winter, fall-winter, and winter-spring 1987. Discriminant analysis (MANOVA) evaluations were made for water quality parameters to site and seasonal phytoplankton assemblages and these relationships are discussed. Moving downstream along an oligohaline-mesohaline gradient, the nitrogen and phosphorus levels decreased and the phytoplankton composition was more similar at several corresponding site locations in the different rivers than at stations relatively close to each other in the same river. Within these data sets approximately 58% of the explained variance was associated with site (spatial) effects, 30% with temporal effects, and 12% with site-temporal interactions. A transition from dominant bloom-producing freshwater diatoms to estuarine species occurs from the tidally influenced freshwater zone downstream. This change may be rapid as the decline ofSkeletonema potamos, or more gradual, as withCyclotella striata andCyclotella meneghiania. These are replaced downstream bySkeletonema costatum, Cyclotella caspia, andLeptocylindrus minimus as dominant species.


Phytoplankton Cyclotella Site Group Skeletonema Phytoplankton Assemblage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. American Public Health Association. 1985. Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wasterwater. 16th Edition. American Public Health Association, American Water Works Association, and Water Pollution Control Federation, Washington, D.C. 1268 p.Google Scholar
  2. American Society of Testing and Materials. 1979. Standard practices for measurement of chlorophyll content of algae in surface waters. ASTM method designation D3731-79, p. 1079–1083.In Annual Book of ASTM Standards. American Society of Testing and Materials. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, G. 1986. Silica, diatoms and a freshwater productivity maximum in Atlantic coastal plain estuaries, Chesapeake Bay.Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 22:183–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Birdsong, R., H. Marshall, R. Alden, andM. Ewing. 1987. Lower Chesapeake Bay Mainstem Plankton Monitoring Program. Final Report. July 1985–June 1986. Old Dominion University Research Foundation, Norfolk, Virginia. 127 p.Google Scholar
  5. Birdsong, R., H. Marshall, R. Alden, andM. Ewing. 1988. Chesapeake Bay Program Plankton Monitoring Program. Final Report. 1986–1987. Old Dominion University Research Foundation, Norfolk, Virginia. 354 p.Google Scholar
  6. Boesch, D. F. 1979. Application of numerical classification in ecological investigations of water pollution. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA-600/3-77-033. Washington, D.C. 114 p.Google Scholar
  7. D’Elia, C. F., J. G. Sanders, andW. R. Boynton. 1986. Nutrient enrichment studies in a coastal plain estuary: Phytoplankton growth in large-scale continuous cultures.Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 43:37–406.Google Scholar
  8. Ducklow, H. W. 1982. Chesapeake Bay nutrient and plankton dynamics. I. Bacterial biomass and production during spring tidal destratification in the York River, Virginia estuary.Limnology and Oceanography 27:651–659.Google Scholar
  9. Filardo, M. andW. Dunstan. 1985. Hydrodynamic control of phytoplankton in low salinity waters of the James River estuary USA.Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 21:653–668.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fisher, T. R., E. R. Peele, andR. D. Doyle. 1987. Phosphorus dynamics in Chesapeake Bay.EOS 68(5):1684 Abstract.Google Scholar
  11. Green, R. H. 1979. Sampling Design and Statistical Methods for Environmental Biologists. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York. 257 p.Google Scholar
  12. Haas, L. W., S. Hastings, and K. L. Webb. 1981. Phytoplankton response to a stratification-mixing cycle in the York River estuary during late summer, p. 619–636.In B. J. Neilson and L. E. Cronin (eds.) Nutrient Enrichment in Estuaries. Proc. Int. Symp. Humana. Clifton, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  13. Haas, L. W. 1977. The effect of the spring-neap tidal cycle on the vertical salinity structure of the James, York, and Rappahannock rivers, Virginia, U.S.A..Estuarine and Coastal Marine Science 5:485–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hayward, D., C. S. Welch, andL. W. Haas. 1982. York River stratification: An estuary-subestuary interaction.Science 216:1413–1414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hecky, R. E. andP. Kilham. 1988. Nutrient limitation of phytoplankton in freshwater and marine environments: A review of recent evidence on the effects of enrichment.Limnology and Oceanography 33:796–822.Google Scholar
  16. Loftus, L. M. E., D. Subba Rao, andH. H. Seliger. 1972. Growth and dissipation of phytoplankton in Chesapeake Bay. I. Response to a large pulse of rainfall.Chesapeake Science 13: 282–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Love, J. A., G. Muller-Parker, andC. V. D’Elia. 1987. Seasonal phosphate assimilation by estuarine microplankton in the Patuxent River estuary, MD.EOS 68:1684 Abstract.Google Scholar
  18. Lung, W. S. 1986. Assessing phosphorus control in the James River Basin.Journal of Environmental Engineering 112:44–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Malone, T. C. 1987. Nutrient limited phytoplankton production in the mesohaline reach of the Chesapeake Bay,EOS 681:1688 Abstract.Google Scholar
  20. Marshall, H. G. andR. Lacouture. 1986. Seasonal patterns of growth and composition of phytoplankton in the lower Chesapeake Bay and vicinity.Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 23:115–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. McCarthy, J. J., W. R. Taylor, andJ. L. Taft. 1977. Nitrogenous nutrition of the plankton in the Chesapeake Bay. I. Nutrient availability and phytoplankton preferences.Limnology and Oceanography 22:996–1011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mountford, K. 1980. Aspects of the ecology of a small estuarine embayment.Marine Biology 61:53–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pennock, J. R. 1987. Seasonal alternation between light, phosphorus and nitrogen limitation of phytoplankton production in a coastal plain estuary.EOS 68:1689 Abstract.Google Scholar
  24. Schubel, J. R. and D. W. Pritchard. 1987. A brief physical description of the Chesapeake Bay, p. 1–32.In S. K. Majumdar, L. W. Hall, and H. M. Austin (eds.), Contaminant Problems and Management of Living Chesapeake Bay Resources. Pennsylvania Academy of Sciences.Google Scholar
  25. Sellner, K. G. 1987. Phytoplankton in the Chesapeake Bay: Role in carbon, oxygen and nutrient dynamics, p. 134–157.In S. K. Majumdar, L. W. Hall, and H. M. Austin (eds.), Contaminant Problems and Management of Living Chesapeake Bay Resources. Pennsylvania Academy of Sciences.Google Scholar
  26. Taft, J. L. andW. R. Taylor. 1976. Phosphorus distribution in the Chesapeake Bay.Chesapeake Science 17:67–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 1979. Methods for Chemical Analysis of Water and Wastes. EPA-600/4-79-020. National Environmental Research Center, Cincinnati, Ohio.Google Scholar
  28. Venrick, E. L. 1978. How many cells to count, p. 167–180.In A. Sournia (ed.), Phytoplankton Manual. UNESCO, Paris.Google Scholar
  29. Virginia Water Control Board. 1987. Tributary Water Quality, 1986. Characterization Report. Richmond, Virginia. 10 p.Google Scholar
  30. Webb, K. L. and P. M. Eldridge. 1987. Nutrient limitation studies in a coastal plain estuary: Seasonal and salinity effects.EOS 68:1689 Abstract.Google Scholar
  31. Williams, W. T. andW. Stephenson. 1973. The analysis of three-dimensional data (sites x species x times) in marine ecology.Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 11: 207–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harold G. Marshall
    • 1
  • Raymond W. Alden
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesOld Dominion UniversityNorfolk

Personalised recommendations