Long-term changes in temperate Australian coastal waters: Implications for phytoplankton

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Journal Article
Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2009, 394 pp. 1 - 19
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A ∼60 yr physical and chemical data set from 4 coastal stations around Australia plus remotely sensed SeaWiFS and phytoplankton taxonomic data were used to evaluate the temporal and spatial variation in phytoplankton ecology. The most consistent trend observed at all stations was a long-term increase in surface salinity of ∼0.003 ± 0.0008 psu yr-1. All stations showed positive trends in temperature, with the fastest surface warming (0.0202°C yr-1 over 60 yr) in the western Tasman Sea. Long-term trends in warming and stratification were more evident in some months and were not well characterized by annual averages. There was no general pattern of increasing stratification (0 to 50 m); only some stations and a few months showed significant changes. Long-term trends in surface nitrate and phosphate concentrations were either not significant (3 instances) or positive (5 instances) and were up to 6.1 nM phosphate yr-1. A pronounced decline in silicate was evident at the 3 east coast stations, with concentrations falling by as much as 58 nM yr-1 over the last ∼30 yr. The western Tasman Sea experienced a ∼50% decline in the growth rate and biomass of the spring bloom from 1997 to 2007, while other sites showed significant temporal variability in chlorophyll a that was associated with the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI). Diatoms tended to dominate the microplankton, especially during periods of low stratification. In conclusion, the physical, chemical and biological properties of Australian temperate waters have changed considerably over the last 60 yr in response to variation in the SOI and the strengthening East Australian Current. © Inter-Research 2009.
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