Diatom bloom in the tidal freshwater zone of a turbid and shallow estuary, Rupert Bay (James Bay, Canada)

Research paper by M. A. De Sève

Indexed on: 01 Oct '93Published on: 01 Oct '93Published in: Hydrobiologia


Phytoplankton biomass and species composition were studied from June to September 1991 at the mouth of four major rivers and in the freshwater (sal. 0 %), the estuarine (sal. 2–10%) and the coastal (sal. 10–12%) zones of Rupert Bay, located at the southeast tip of James Bay, Canada.A chlorophyll a maximum (5–14 µg 1−1) was observed in the freshwater zone from July to September. Chlorophyll values were low at the mouth of the rivers and in the estuarine and coastal zones (chl a < 1.00 µg 1−1). Diatoms were dominant in the freshwater zone (30–80 % abundance), with flagellates dominating in the estuarine and coastal zones (60–95% abundance). Diversity was low (H′: 1.5–2.5) in the freshwater zone and decreased seaward (H′: 0.5–1.5).The diatom bloom was composed almost exclusively of the autochthonous planktonic diatom Cyclotella meneghiniana Kütz., which contributed 25–85% of the species composition, and of the subdominant benthic species Diploneis smithii, Navicula lanceolata and Surirella robusta. Peak abundance occurred upstream of the turbidity maximum, in the tidal freshwater zone. In this zone the mean photic depth was 1 m and residence time was from 7 to 8 days during the bloom. Residence time is considered to be the dominant factor controlling the phytoplankton bloom, with light not acting as a limiting factor. The high turbidity due to resuspension and shallow depth of the bay controlled the species composition.