Temporal variability of phytoplankton biomass and primary production off Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico

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Rafael Cervantes-Duarte
Sofía Barón-Campis
David Uriel Hernández-Becerril
Gilberto Gaxiola-Castro
J Rubén Lara-Lara


Sixteen monthly cruises were carried out at a station 6.5 km to the NW of the mouth of Magdalena Bay (Mexico) to study the temporal variability of phytoplankton biomass and primary production rates, and the response of phytoplankton to the prevailing hydrographic characteristics. During each cruise, temperature and salinity were measured in the water column, and discrete samples were collected to measure inorganic nutrient concentrations (nitrate, phosphate, and silicate) and chlorophyll a content (as a proxy for phytoplankton biomass); in addition, in situ incubations were performed to estimate primary production (PP) rates using the 14C technique. During spring and early summer (March–July), the water column at the study site was cold (14.4 ºC at 80 m depth and 17.7 ºC at the surface) and well mixed, with high nutrient concentrations (nitrate = 6.39 μM, phosphate = 0.91 μM, and silicate = 11.87 μM) at the surface, typical of intense upwelling systems. On the contrary, from August to February the water column was stratified (23.5 ± 3.2 ºC above the thermocline and 17.0 ± 1.7 ºC at 80 m depth) and had low nutrient concentrations (nitrate = 3.90 μM, phosphate = 0.47 μM, and silicate = 10.30 μM) at the surface. Phytoplankton abundance, chlorophyll a concentration, and PP rates in the euphotic zone were higher during the upwelling season, with maximum cell density of 1.7 × 106 cells·L–1 (nanoplankton fraction), integrated chlorophyll a content of 231 mg·m–2, and integrated PP rates of 553 mg C·m–2·h–1). Abundance of cells <20 μm, as determined by flow cytometry, revealed the importance of the nanoplankton and picoplankton fractions in this region. This study showed the seasonal variability of phytoplankton communities (biomass and productivity) in waters off Magdalena Bay and the coupling of phytoplankton to environmental variability. Seasonal variability was similar to that observed for other typical coastal upwelling regions, that is, higher phytoplankton abundances and PP rates in spring and summer and lower values in autumn and winter.

Key words: biomass, primary productivity, hydrography, coastal zone, Magdalena Bay.

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