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Climate effects on phytoplankton floral composition in Chesapeake Bay




  • Harding Jr., L. W., Adolf, J. E., Mallonee, M. E., Miller, W. D., Gallegos, Charles L., Perry, E. S., Johnson, J. M., Sellner, K. G. and Paerl, H. W.


  • Long-term data on floral composition of phytoplankton are presented to document seasonal and inter-annual variability in Chesapeake Bay related to climate effects on hydrology. Source data consist of the abundances of major taxonomic groups of phytoplankton derived from algal photopigments (1995–2004) and cell counts (1985–2007). Algal photopigments were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and analyzed using the software CHEMTAX to determine the proportions of chlorophyll-a (chl-a) in major taxonomic groups. Cell counts determined microscopically provided species identifications, enumeration, and dimensions used to obtain proportions of cell volume (CV), plasma volume (PV), and carbon (C) in the same taxonomic groups. We drew upon these two independent data sets to take advantage of the unique strengths of each method, using comparable quantitative measures to express floral composition for the main stem bay. Spatial and temporal variability of floral composition was quantified using data aggregated by season, year, and salinity zone. Both time-series were sufficiently long to encompass the drought–flood cycle with commensurate effects on inputs of freshwater and solutes. Diatoms emerged as the predominant taxonomic group, with significant contributions by dinoflagellates, cryptophytes, and cyanobacteria, depending on salinity zone and season. Our analyses revealed increased abundance of diatoms in wet years compared to long-term average (LTA) or dry years. Results are presented in the context of long-term nutrient over-enrichment of the bay, punctuated by inter-annual variability of freshwater flow that strongly affects nutrient loading, chl-a, and floral composition. Statistical analyses generated flow-adjusted diatom abundance and showed significant trends late in the time series, suggesting current and future decreases of nutrient inputs may lead to a reduction of the proportion of biomass comprised by diatoms in an increasingly diverse flora.

Published In

Publication Date

  • 2015



Digital Object Identifier (doi)

Additional Document Info

Start Page

  • 53

End Page

  • 68


  • 162