A novel approach for estimating ecosystem production and respiration in estuaries: Application to the oligohaline and mesohaline Hudson River

Swaney, Dennis P., Robert W. Howarth, Thomas J. Butler

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(6), 1999, 1509-1521 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.6.1509

ABSTRACT: Most estimates of metabolism in estuaries are based on water samples incubated in bottles. Such approaches may severely underestimate rates of both gross primary production (GPP) and respiration for a variety of reasons, including reduced turbulence, unnatural light fields, respiration of 14 C-labeled organic matter, and altered grazer communities. These problems may be particularly intense in turbid and deeply mixed estuaries. The measurement of metabolism from in situ changes in dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration over a diel time period offers a potential solution to these problems, but complicated patterns of water advection and mixing in estuaries have limited the use of such open-water approaches. Here, we describe a method of using diel changes in oxygen concentrations in the oligohaline and mesohaline Hudson River estuary to estimate GPP, whole-ecosystem respiration (ER), and net ecosystem production (NEP). For this approach, concentrations of DO at any given time for several stations are described as a function of salinity and depth, providing a surface in the three-dimensional space of oxygen, depth, and salinity. The change in this "response surface" for oxygen over time, once corrected for atmospheric exchange, allows the estimation of metabolism rates. The regression procedures used allow an estimate of the standard error associated with the metabolism measures. For the mesohaline Hudson River estuary, these standard errors are reasonably small. Similarly, any potential errors associated with the estimation of atmospheric exchange in oxygen are small for the Hudson. The technique should be useful for estimating GPP, NEP, and ER in other partially mixed estuaries without the biases associated with incubations in bottles.

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