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Primary Production in the Columbia River Estuary. I. Spatial and Temporal Variability of Properties

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Title: Primary Production in the Columbia River Estuary. I. Spatial and Temporal Variability of Properties
Authors: Lara-Lara, J Ruben
Frey, Bruce E.
Small, F. Lawrence
Issue Date: Jan 1990
Publisher: University of Hawaii Press
Citation: Lara-Lara JR, Frey BE, Small LF. 1990. Primary production in the Columbia river estuary. I. spatial and temporal variability of properties. Pac Sci 44(1): 17-37.
Abstract: Light, major nutrients, water temperature, turbidity and its organic
and inorganic fractions, chlorophyll, phaeophytin, DCMU [3-(3,4dichlorophenyl)-
l, 1 dimethyl ureal-enhanced fluorescence (DCMU ratio), particulate
organic carbon (POC), particulate organic nitrogen (PON), and primary
production were measured from April 1980 through April 1981 in a 65-km
stretch of the Columbia River estuary. Daily solar input, light attenuation in the
water, and chlorophyll concentration accounted for 75% of the variability of
daily primary production in the main estuarine axis and 85% in the shallows. The
rapid appearance of a turbidity load created by the Mt. Saint Helens volcanic
eruption in May 1980and the subsequent clearing of the water as the load moved
out of the estuary became a natural experiment to show that light availability was
indeed the limiting factor to phytoplankton production in the estuary. Spatial
variability in chlorophyll concentration was caused mainly by large summer
reductions at the location where freshwater cells were lysed on contact with lowsalinity
intrusions. Mean values for properties in the main axis generally were not
significantly different from those in the shallows, suggesting that the main axis
and shallows experience similar , rapid flushing times. Total primary production
for the estuary was almost 30,000 metric tons C yr-1", but areal production was
only 100 g C m-2 yr-1" , which puts the Columbia system at the low end of North
American estuaries. The low areal production was likely a result of light limitation,
chlorophyll reduction at the low-salinity boundary, and a short residence
time of water and viable cells in the estuary.
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/1240
ISSN: 0030-8870
Appears in Collections:Pacific Science Volume 44, Number 1, 1990



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