Response patterns of phytoplankton growth to variations in resuspension in the German Bight revealed by daily MERIS data in 2003 and 2004


Chlorophyll (chl a) concentration in coastal seas exhibits variability on various spatial and temporal scales. Resuspension of particulate matter can somewhat limit algal growth, but can also enhance productivity because of the intrusion of nutrient-rich pore water from sediments or bottom water layers into the whole water column. This study investigates whether characteristic changes in net phytoplankton growth can be directly linked to resuspension events within the German Bight. Satellite-derived chl a were used to derive spatial patterns of net rates of chl a increase/decrease (NR) in 2003 and 2004. Spatial correlations between NR and mean water column irradiance were analysed. High correlations in space and time were found in most areas of the German Bight (R2 > 0.4), suggesting a tight coupling between light availability and algal growth during spring. These correlations were reduced within a distinct zone in the transition between shallow coastal areas and deeper offshore waters. In summer and autumn, a mismatch was found between phytoplankton blooms (chl a > 6 mg m−3) and spring-tidal induced resuspension events as indicated by bottom velocity, suggesting that there is no phytoplankton resuspension during spring tides. It is instead proposed here that frequent and recurrent spring-tidal resuspension events enhance algal growth by supplying remineralized nutrients. This hypothesis is corroborated by a lag correlation analysis between resuspension events and in-situ measured nutrient concentrations. This study outlines seasonally different patterns in phytoplankton productivity in response to variations in resuspension, which can serve as a reference for modelling coastal ecosystem dynamics.
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