Monsoon-induced changes in the size-fractionated phytoplankton biomass and production rate in the estuarine and coastal waters of southwest coast of India

N V Madhu, R Jyothibabu, K K Balachandran
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 2010, 166 (1): 521-8
Changes in the autotrophic pico- (0.2-2 microm), nano- (2-20 microm), and microplankton (>20 microm) biomass (chlorophyll a) and primary production were measured in the estuarine and coastal waters off Cochin, southwest coast of India during the onset and establishment of a monsoon. During this period, the estuary was dominated by nutrient-rich freshwater, whereas the coastal waters were characterized with higher salinity values (>30 psu) and less nutrients. The average surface chlorophyll a concentrations and primary production rates were higher in the estuary (average 13.7 mg m(-3) and 432 mgC m(-3) day(-1)) as compared to the coastal waters (5.3 mg m(-3) and 224 mgC m(-3) day(-1)). The nanoplankton community formed the major fraction of chlorophyll a and primary production, both in the estuary (average 85 +/- SD 8.3% and 81.2 +/- SD 3.2%) and the coastal waters (average 73.2 +/- SD 17.2% and 81.9 +/- 15.7%). Nanoplankton had the maximum photosynthetic efficiency in the coastal waters (average 4.8 +/- SD 3.9 mgC mgChl a m(-3) h(-1)), whereas in the estuary, the microplankton had higher photosynthetic efficiency (average 7.4 +/- 7 mgC mgChl a m(-3) h(-1)). The heavy cloud cover and increased water column turbidity not only limit the growth of large-sized phytoplankton in the Cochin estuary and coastal waters but also support the proliferation of nanoplankton community during the monsoon season, even though large variation in nanoplankton chlorophyll a and production exists between these two areas.

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