Blooms of the picoplanktonic cyanobacterium Synechococcus in Florida Bay, a subtropical inner-shelf lagoon

Phlips, Edward J., Susan Badylak, Tammy C. Lynch

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(4), 1999, 1166-1175 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.4.1166

ABSTRACT: Seventeen sites in Florida Bay were sampled on a monthly basis for 51 months to describe the spatial and temporal patterns of phytoplankton blooms. The study focused on the picoplanktonic cyanobacterium Synechococcus. The greatest frequency and intensity of blooms was observed in the north-central region of Florida Bay, where cellular biovolumes of this species regularly exceeded 10 x 106um3 ml-1 and chlorophyll a concentrations were frequently >20 mg m-3. Synechococcus blooms were often restricted to this region of the bay, in part because of the network of shallow mudbanks and islands that restrict water exchange with other regions and outlying waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The most severe blooms occurred in the summer and fall (May-December). High concentrations of Synechococcus also appeared during the fall in the south-central region of the bay. The appearance of blooms in this region coincided with the onset of seasonal cold fronts, whose strong northerly and northwesterly winds appear to drive bloom-laden water from the north-central region into adjacent parts of the bay. A number of physical and chemical factors appear to contribute to the remarkably high phytoplankton biovolumes observed in the north-central region of Florida Bay. Physical factors include the shallowness and hydrological isolation of the region. The dominance of Synechococcus in the center of the bay may be attributable to several of the unique physicochemical characteristics of this species, including its small size, cyanobacterial metabolism, euryhaline character, buoyancy, and tolerance to high light intensity.

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