We present results of an intensive sampling program designed to measure weekly changes in ecosystem respiration (oxygen consumption in the water column and sediments) around the 1996 spring bloom in South San Francisco Bay, California, USA. Measurements were made at a shallow site (2 m, where mean photic depth was 60% of the water column height) and a deep site (15 m, mean photic depth was only 20% of the water column). We also estimated phytoplankton primary production weekly at both sites to develop estimates of net oxygen flux as the sum of pelagic production (PP), pelagic respiration (PR) and benthic respiration (BR). Over the 14 wk period from February 5 to May 14, PP ranged from 2 to 210, PR from 9 to 289, and BR from 0.1 to 48 mmol O2 m-2 d-1, illustrating large variability of estuarine oxygen fluxes at the weekly time scale. Pelagic production exceeded total respiration at the shallow site, but not at the deep site, demonstrating that the shallow domains are net autotrophic but the deep domains are net heterotrophic, even during the period of the spring bloom. If we take into account the potential primary production by benthic microalgae, the estuary as a whole is net autotrophic during spring, net heterotrophic during the nonbloom seasons, and has a balanced net metabolism over a full annual period. The seasonal shift from net autotrophy to heterotrophy during the transition from spring to summer was accompanied by a large shift from dominance by pelagic respiration to dominance by benthic respiration. This suggests that changes in net ecosystem metabolism can reflect changes in the pathways of energy flow in shallow coastal ecosystems.
Additional publication details
Changes in production and respiration during a spring phytoplankton bloom in San Francisco Bay, California, USA: Implications for net ecosystem metabolism