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Changes in the biomass and species composition of macroalgae in a eutrophic estuary

Lavery, P.S., Lukatelich, R.J. and McComb, A.J. (1991) Changes in the biomass and species composition of macroalgae in a eutrophic estuary. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 33 (1). pp. 1-22.

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More than 20 years of data are presented on the macroalgal biomass, species composition and water quality of Peel-Harvey estuary in south-western Australia. The occurrence of macroalgal blooms was a sudden event in the late 1960s, and appears to have resulted from nutrient availability surpassing a threshold of some kind. Cladophora dominated the system until 1979 and appears to have had a competitive advantage in deep-water areas because of its morphology. A catastrophic event compounded by a series of unfavourable conditions resulted in the loss of Cladophora from the deep areas and its estuary-wide replacement by Chaetomorpha, which was more competitive in the shallows.

Since 1979, changes in water quality have been reflected in changes in biomass and species composition in the system. Average annual biomass is linearly related to average light attenuation over the summer growth period. Periods of high nutrient concentrations favour Ulva and Enteromorpha, while Chaetomorpha resumes dominance during periods of lower mean nutrient concentrations. Nutrient concentrations appear to be more influential on an inter-annual than seasonal scale, except in the case of Ulva which, on the basis of tissue N and P concentrations, is seasonally nitrogen-limited. Light attenuation appears to have seasonal and long-term effects.

The data support the hypothesis of other workers that inter-annual differences in hydrographic events and phytoplankton dynamics influence macroalgal dynamics. The concept is examined further in light of this extensive database.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Academic Press
Copyright: © 1991 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
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