Nearly two decades of seasonal dissolved inorganic nutrient-salinity distributions in northern San Francisco Bay estuary (1960-1980) illustrate interannual variations in effects of river flow (a nutrient source) and phytoplankton productivity (a nutrient sink). During winter, nutrient sources dominate the nutrient-salinity distribution patterns (nutrients are at or exceed conservative mixing concentrations). During summer, however, the sources and sinks are in close competition. In summers of wet years, the effects of increased river flow often dominate the nutrient distributions (nutrients are at or less than conservative mixing concentrations), whereas in summers of dry years, phytoplankton productivity dominates (the very dry years 1976-1977 were an exception for reasons not yet clearly known). Such source/sink effects also vary with chemical species. During summer the control of phytoplankton on nutrient distributions is apparently strongest for ammonium, less so for nitrate and silica, and is the least for phosphate. Furthermore, the strength of the silica sink (diatom productivity) is at a maximum at intermediate river flows. This relation, which is in agreement with other studies based on phytoplankton abundance and enumeration, is significant to the extent that diatoms are an important food source for herbivores. The balance or lack of balance between nutrient sources and sinks varies from one estuary to another just as it can from one year to another within the same estuary. At one extreme, in some estuaries river flow dominates the estuarine dissolved inorganic nutrient distributions throughout most of the year. At the other extreme, phytoplankton productivity dominates. In northern San Francisco Bay, for example, the phytoplankton nutrient sink is not as strong as in less turbid estuaries. In this estuary, however, river effects, which produce or are associated with near-conservative nutrient distributions, are strong even at flows less than mean-annual flow. Thus, northern San Francisco Bay appears to be an estuary in between the two extremes and is shifted closer to one extreme or the other depending on interannual variations in river flow. ?? 1985 Dr W. Junk Publishers.
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Interannual variability in dissolved inorganic nutrients in northern San Francisco Bay estuary