Seasonal, horizontal, and vertical distribution of phytoplankton chlorophyll a in the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf Ecosystem

O'Reilly, John E. and Zetlin, Christine (1998) Seasonal, horizontal, and vertical distribution of phytoplankton chlorophyll a in the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf Ecosystem. Seattle, WA, NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service, (NOAA Technical Report NMFS, 139)

PDF (The document's language is English .) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (84MB) | Preview
Official URL:


The broad scale features in the horizontal, vertical, and seasonal distribution of phytoplankton chlorophyll a on the northeast U.S. continental shelf are described based on 57,088 measurements made during 78 oceanographic surveys from 1977 through 1988. Highest mean water column chlorophyll concentration (Chlw,) is usually observed in nearshore areas adjacent to the mouths of the estuaries in the Middle Atlantic Bight (MAB), over the shallow water on Georges Bank, and a small area sampled along the southeast edge of Nantucket Shoals. Lowest Chlw «0.125 ug l-1) is usually restricted to the most seaward stations sampled along the shelf-break and the central deep waters in the Gulf of Maine. There is at least a twofold seasonal variation in phytoplankton biomass in all areas, with highest phytoplankton concentrations (m3) and highest integrated standing stocks (m2) occurring during the winter-spring (WS) bloom, and the lowest during summer, when vertical density stratification is maximal. In most regions, a secondary phytoplankton biomass pulse is evident during convective destratification in fall, usually in October. Fall bloom in some areas of Georges Bank approaches the magnitude of the WS-bloom, but Georges Bank and Middle Atlantic Bight fall blooms are clearly subordinate to WS-blooms. Measurements of chlorophyll in two size-fractions of the phytoplankton, netplankton (>20 um) and nanoplankton «20 um), revealed that the smaller nanoplankton are responsible for most of the phytoplankton biomass on the northeast U.S. shelf. Netplankton tend to be more abundant in nearshore areas of the MAB and shallow water on Georges Bank, where chlorophyll a is usually high; nanoplankton dominate deeper water at the shelf-break and deep water in the Gulf of Maine, where Chlw is usually low. As a general rule, the percent of phytoplankton in the netplankton size-fraction increases with increasing depth below surface and decreases proceeding offshore. There are distinct seasonal and regional patterns in the vertical distribution of chlorophyll a and percent netplankton, as revealed in composite vertical profiles of chlorophyll a constructed for 11 layers of the water column. Subsurface chlorophyll a maxima are ubiquitous during summer in stratified water. Chlorophyll a in the subsurface maximum layer is generally 2-8 times the concentration in the overlying and underlying water and approaches 50 to 75% of the levels observed in surface water during WS-bloom. The distribution of the ratio of the subsurface maximum chlorophyll a to surface chlorophyll a (SSR) during summer parallels the shelfwide pattern for stability, indexed as the difference in density (sigma-t) between 40 m and surface (stability 40. The weakest stability and lowest SSR's are found in shallow tidally-mixed water on Georges Bank; the greatest stability and highest SSR's (8-12:1) are along the mid and outer MAB shelf, over the winter residual water known as the "cold band." On Georges Bank, the distribution of SSR and the stability40 are roughly congruent with the pattern for maximum surface tidal current velocity, with values above 50 cms-1 defining SSR's less than 2:1 and the well-mixed area. Physical factors (bathymetry, vertical mixing by strong tidal currents, and seasonal and regional differences in the intensity and duration of vertical stratification) appear to explain much of the variability in phytoplankton chlorophyll a throughout this ecosystem. (PDF file contains 126 pages.)

Item Type: Monograph or Serial Issue
Title: Seasonal, horizontal, and vertical distribution of phytoplankton chlorophyll a in the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf Ecosystem
Personal Creator/Author:
O'Reilly, John E.
Zetlin, Christine
Series Name: NOAA Technical Report NMFS
Number: 139
Date: 1998
Publisher: NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service
Place of Publication: Seattle, WA
Issuing Agency: United States National Marine Fisheries Service
Subjects: Management
Item ID: 2543
Depositing User: Patti M. Marraro
Date Deposited: 30 Jul 2009 18:02
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2011 18:51

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

More statistics for this item...