Increased frequency and severity of droughts, as well as growing human freshwater demands, in the Apalachicola- Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin are expected to lead to a long-term decrease in freshwater discharge to Apalachicola Bay (Florida). To date, no long-term studies have assessed how river discharge variability affects the Bay’s phytoplankton community. Here a 14-year time series was used to assess the influence of hydrologic variability on the biogeochemistry and phytoplankton biomass in Apalachicola Bay. Data were collected at 10 sites in the bay along the salinity gradient and include drought and storm periods. Riverine dissolved inorganic nitrogen and phosphate inputs were correlated to river discharge, but chlorophyll a (Chl a) was similar between periods of drought and average/above-average river discharge in most of the Bay. Results suggest that the potentially negative impact of decreased riverine nutrient input on Bay phytoplankton biomass is mitigated by the nutrient buffering capacity of the estuary. Additionally, increased light availability, longer residence time, and decreased grazing pressures may allow more Chl a biomass to accumulate during drought. In contrast to droughts, tropical cyclones and subsequent increases in river discharge increased flushing and reduced light penetration, leading to reduced Chl a in the Bay. Analysis of
Estuaries and Coasts – Springer Journals
Published: May 11, 2018
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