Publication details.


Author(s):G. Basterretxea, A. Jordi, M.C. Martínez-Soto, A. Tovar-Sánchez
Title:Episodic Biogeochemical Variability in a Low-Flow Mediterranean Estuary
Journal:Estuaries and Coasts
JCR Impact Factor:2.421
Issue No.:5
Abstract:To investigate to what extent episodic physical processes regulate nutrient availability and phytoplankton assemblages of the Mahon estuary (Minorca Island), we carried out an intensive field study during 2010–2011. During the study period, environmental conditions spanned from intense stratification to a continuous mixing and from lack of riverine inflow to intense runoff. Our data reveals a sequence of biogeochemical states of the estuary that result from the interplay between runoff, other non-periodic forcings (winds, sea level oscillations), and variations in water renewal. Seasonal runoff was revealed as a major driver of winter circulation and of the influx of inorganic nutrients, in particular nitrate. However, because of the combination between runoff and flushing time, the effects of floodwater events on phytoplankton are short-lived (days). Conversely, during summer, when freshwater influx declines, water renewal relies on pulsed atmospheric forcing that may be of local or remote origin. As depicted from the low nitrate concentrations (<1 μM) and enhanced ammonium (>1 μM), this change in circulation and external loads carries nutrient assimilation within the estuary head and forces the use of remnant nutrients through regenerating pathways to sustain an enhanced phytoplankton biomass at the lower estuary. Episodic variability represented between 52 and 65% of the annual chlorophyll variance. Despite the fact that episodic pulses represented intense departures from base biogeochemical state of the estuary, at time scale larger than weeks, the phytoplankton community composition and dynamics was largely regulated by the integrated effect of these episodes and other environmental drivers associated with seasonality rather than by individual storm events only. Our results suggest that even though the system presents good recovery capacity to individual storm episodes, it may be more vulnerable to increased nutrient fluxes during summer, as well as to changes in episode timing and frequency.

Related staff

  • Gotzon Basterretxea Oyarzabal
  • Related projects

  • EHRE
  • Related research groups

  • Global Change Research