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Late winter coccolithophore bloom off central Portugal in response to river discharge and upwelling
Guerreiro, C.; Oliveira, A.; de Stigter, H.; Cachão, M.; Sá, C.; Borges, C.; Cros, L.; Santos, A.; Fortuño, J.M.; Rodrigues, A. (2013). Late winter coccolithophore bloom off central Portugal in response to river discharge and upwelling. Cont. Shelf Res. 59: 65-83. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.csr.2013.04.016
In: Continental Shelf Research. Pergamon Press: Oxford; New York. ISSN 0278-4343, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Coccolithophora Lohmann, 1902 [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    Coccolithophore ecology; River runoff; Ekman circulation;Haline-stratification; Portuguese margin

Authors  Top 
  • Guerreiro, C.
  • Oliveira, A.
  • de Stigter, H., more
  • Cachão, M.
  • Sá, C.
  • Borges, C.
  • Cros, L.
  • Santos, A.
  • Fortuño, J.M.
  • Rodrigues, A.

Abstract
    Coccolithophore communities collected during late winter (9-19 March of 2010) over the central Portuguese margin showed a major change in species abundance and composition within a few days' time, closely related to the highly transient meteorological and oceanographic conditions.
    Particularly favourable conditions for coccolithophore growth resulted from late winter continental runoff combined with northerly winds prevailing over the shelf, under clear sky conditions. A nutrient-rich Buoyant Plume (BP) resulting from intense river water runoff prior to and during the start of the cruise, was observed to spread out over the denser winter mixed layer water beneath, and extend equatorwards and offshore under influence of Ekman superficial dynamics. Stabilization of buoyancy, settling of suspended sediment from the BP and the prevailing clear sky conditions in the transition to the 2nd leg of the cruise resulted in optimum conditions for coccolithophores to develop, at the expense of nutrient availability in the superficial sunlit layer. Within a few days, coccolithophore cell densities and associated phytoplankton biomass more than tripled, reaching maximum values of 145,000 cells/l and similar to 13 mu g/l Chl-a, respectively.
    Often considered as a uniform functional group of calcifying phytoplankton thriving in low-turbulence, low-nutrients and high-light environments, results presented in this study clearly show that coccolithophore life strategies are much more diverse than expected. The increase of cell densities was mainly due to the bloom of Emiliania huxleyi and Gephyrocapsa oceanica in the coastal region west off Cape Carvoeiro, together with other opportunistic phytoplankton genera (Chaetoceros s.l., Thalassiosira s.l. and Skeletonema s.l.). This confirms their role as early succession r-selected taxa, capable of rapid growth within nutrient-rich environments. On the contrary, Syracosphaera spp. and Ophiaster spp. displayed the characteristics of K-selected species, being consistently more abundant in more oceanic and less eutrophic waters, away from the influence of the BP, during both low- and high-productive periods.
    A general description of coccolithophore communities as well as the environmental conditions during this period is presented in this study (i.e. hydrography and nutrient availability). Multivariate analysis was used to investigate the impact of short-term environmental changes on the productivity and ecology of this group. In view of the observed dominance of coccolithophores off Portugal during winter, this transitional period appears particularly favourable for coccolithophores to develop. The results highlight the importance of taking short-term hydrographic and meteorological variability into account when interpreting the ecological preferences of coccolithophores from coastal-neritic-oceanic transitional settings.

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