Phytoplankton, Dissolved Oxygen and Nutrient Patterns Along A Eutrophic River-Estuary Continuum: Observation and Modeling

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Journal of Environmental Management

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Transport and fate of phytoplankton blooms and excessive nutrients along salinity and turbidity gradients of a river-estuary continuum could determine when and where impaired water quality occurs. However, the general spatiotemporal patterns, underlying mechanisms and their implication for water quality management are not well understood. This study reveals typical seasonal variations and longitudinal patterns of phytoplankton, dissolved oxygen (DO) and nutrients (C, N, and P) in the lower St. Johns River estuary in Florida based on 23 years of data and a model which spans 3 years. Evident declines in freshwater phytoplankton and DO concentrations were observed in the freshwater-saltwater transition zone and the estuarine turbidity maxima along the river-estuary continuum. Observations show that most cyanobacteria blooms originating from upstream lakes collapsed in the freshwater-saltwater transition zone where salinity was greater than 1 ppt, but data analysis and model simulation both indicate salinity stress was not the sole reason, other factors such as changes in hydrodynamics and river morphology also contributed to the bloom crashes. Inorganic nutrients (ammonium, nitrate, and phosphate) exhibited inverse longitudinal patterns with phytoplankton. Due to algal uptake, summer concentrations of inorganic nutrients were low in the freshwater, but substantially elevated in the marine reach as a result of large point source inputs and nutrient regeneration from organic detritus. However, because of strong river-ocean mixing, the dramatic increase in nutrients did not promote a phytoplankton bloom in the local marine reach. The nutrients were eventually transported into coastal waters or oceans where they fueled phytoplankton blooms. Our findings highlight that strategies for nutrient reduction and phytoplankton bloom management should be developed beyond local reaches and across a river-estuary-ocean continuum, exploring the possibility that freshwater phytoplankton blooms and excessive nutrients may be transported to downstream estuaries, coastal waters and even oceans that are vulnerable to poor water quality.


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The authors regret that there is one mistake and one format error in the published paper. The mistake is “toxicity of zooplankton” in Page 4. The correct phrase should be “toxicity to zooplankton”. The format error is the colour of one reference is different from the remaining references. “Varol, M., Sen, B., 2018. Abiotic factors controlling the seasonal and spatial patterns of phytoplankton community in the Tigris River, Turkey. River Res. Appl. 34 (1)”. The colour of this reference should be blue, but now it is black. Thank you.

The authors would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.



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