Modeling investigation of the nutrient and phytoplankton variability in the Chesapeake Bay outflow plume

Research paper by Long Jiang, Meng Xia

Indexed on: 30 Apr '18Published on: 15 Apr '18Published in: Progress in Oceanography


Publication date: March 2018 Source:Progress in Oceanography, Volume 162 Author(s): Long Jiang, Meng Xia The Chesapeake Bay outflow plume (CBOP) is the mixing zone between Chesapeake Bay and less eutrophic continental shelf waters. Variations in phytoplankton distribution in the CBOP are critical to the fish nursery habitat quality and ecosystem health; thus, an existing hydrodynamic-biogeochemical model for the bay and the adjacent coastal ocean was applied to understand the nutrient and phytoplankton variability in the plume and the dominant environmental drivers. The simulated nutrient and chlorophyll a distribution agreed well with field data and real-time satellite imagery. Based on the model calculation, the net dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) and phosphorus (DIP) flux at the bay mouth was seaward and landward during 2003–2012, respectively. The CBOP was mostly nitrogen-limited because of the relatively low estuarine DIN export. The highest simulated phytoplankton biomass generally occurred in spring in the near field of the plume. Streamflow variations could regulate the estuarine residence time, and thus modulate nutrient export and phytoplankton biomass in the plume area; in comparison, changing nutrient loading with fixed streamflow had a less extensive impact, especially in the offshore and far-field regions. Correlation analyses and numerical experiments revealed that southerly winds on the shelf were effective in promoting the offshore plume expansion and phytoplankton accumulation. Climate change including precipitation and wind pattern shifts is likely to complicate the driving mechanisms of phytoplankton variability in the plume region.