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Drivers of the spatial phytoplankton gradient in estuarine–coastal systems: generic implications of a case study in a Dutch tidal bay
Jiang, L,; Gerkema, T.; Kromkamp, J.; van der Wal, D.; Carrasco de la Cruz, P.M.; Soetaert, K. (2020). Drivers of the spatial phytoplankton gradient in estuarine–coastal systems: generic implications of a case study in a Dutch tidal bay. Biogeosciences 17(16): 4135-4152. https://dx.doi.org/10.5194/bg-17-4135-2020
In: Gattuso, J.P.; Kesselmeier, J. (Ed.) Biogeosciences. Copernicus Publications: Göttingen. ISSN 1726-4170; e-ISSN 1726-4189, meer
Peer reviewed article  

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  • van der Wal, D., meer
  • Carrasco de la Cruz, P.M.
  • Soetaert, K., meer

Abstract
    As the primary energy and carbon source in aquatic food webs, phytoplankton generally display spatial heterogeneity due to complicated biotic and abiotic controls; however our understanding of the causes of this spatial heterogeneity is challenging, as it involves multiple regulatory mechanisms. We applied a combination of field observation, numerical modeling, and remote sensing to display and interpret the spatial gradient of phytoplankton biomass in a Dutch tidal bay (the Eastern Scheldt) on the east coast of the North Sea. The 19 years (1995–2013) of monitoring data reveal a seaward increasing trend in chlorophyll-a (chl a) concentrations during the spring bloom. Using a calibrated and validated three-dimensional hydrodynamic–biogeochemical model, two idealized model scenarios were run: switching off the suspension feeders and halving the open-boundary nutrient and phytoplankton loading. Results reveal that bivalve grazing exerts a dominant control on phytoplankton in the bay and that the tidal import mainly influences algal biomass near the mouth. Satellite data captured a post-bloom snapshot that indicated the temporally variable phytoplankton distribution. Based on a literature review, we found five common spatial phytoplankton patterns in global estuarine–coastal ecosystems for comparison with the Eastern Scheldt case: seaward increasing, seaward decreasing, concave with a chlorophyll maximum, weak spatial gradients, and irregular patterns. We highlight the temporal variability of these spatial patterns and the importance of anthropogenic and environmental influences.

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