Dynamics of nutrients and phytoplankton biomass in the Pearl River estuary and adjacent waters of Hong Kong during summer: preliminary evidence for phosphorus and silicon limitation.
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The Pearl River in the south of China is the second largest river in China in terms of discharge volume. Two cruises were made to investigate the dynamics of nutrients and phytoplankton biomass in June and July 1998, across the Pearl River estuary to the adjacent territorial waters of Hong Kong. On-deck incubation experiments of 5 mixtures of freshwater from the surface with seawater from below the halocline were conducted to simulate time scales of phytoplankton blooms or each freshwater- seawater mixture and to examine uptake of nutrients. In July, phytoplankton growth rates increased with salinity of the mixtures, with the lowest growth rate (0.81 d-') in freshwater and the highest (2.41 d-l) in 100% seawater (sahity = 29). PO4 was lower in freshwater (0.3 PM) than in seawater (1.2 pM), whereas concentrations of NO3+ NH4 + urea (-80 FM) and SiO, (150 FM) were higher in freshwater than those in seawater (25 pM for nitrogen and 26 pM for SO,). During the incubation PO, disappeared first, indicating that P was limiting the phytoplankton biomass. All mixtures reached the maximum in phytoplankton biomass in 3 to 4 d. There was a regional maximum of phytoplankton biomass that occurred at the seaward edge of the estuarine plume during June The region moved eastwards (away from the estuary) to the southern waters between Lantau Island and Hong Kong Island during July. Mixing dagrams of NO3 and Si04 showed conservative behaviour with sabnity in the estuary. These observations suggest that dilution by freshwater outflow was a controlling factor in determining the distribution of nutrients and phytoplankton biomass in the estuary due to high flow during June and July. The regional maximum of phytoplankton biomass was comparable to that resulting from the incubation and coincided with the exhaustion of PO, during July. On the estuanne (west) side of the regonal maximum, chl a fluorescence increased during 24 h incubations, but decreased at the station with the maximum and on the east side, suggesting the possible hutation of nutrients to the phytoplankton community.In the same eastern waters, both PO, and SiO, were very low. However, NO, and NH, remained abundant, suggesting possible CO-limitationb y phosphorus and silicon. We hypothesize that considerable seasonal rainfall in June and early July might have contributed an additional source of nitrogen to he water column, which resulted in the exhaustion of PO, and SiO, before nitrogen.
Marine Ecology Progress Series
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