African Journal of Aquatic Science

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Microalgal responses to physico-chemical variability in the small temporarily open/closed Seteni Estuary, South Africa

NK Carrasco, R Perissinotto


The Seteni Estuary is a small temporarily open/closed estuary (TOCE) in South Africa under the influence of agricultural practices. While the general significance of microalgae to estuarine production is widely recognised, the factors regulating microalgal biomass in these heterogeneous systems are less well understood, particularly when man-induced pressures are superimposed on natural variability. This study investigated microalgal responses to physico-chemical variability in the nutrient-enriched Seteni Estuary in 2008–2009. Microphytobenthic biomass ranged from 1.1 to 91.7 mg Chl a m−2, while phytoplankton biomass varied between 0.22 and 18 mg Chl a m−3. Despite the high dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) concentrations recorded, salinity and rainfall were identified as the main environmental drivers, highlighting the importance of allochthonous inputs. While this system appears to function as a typical TOCE, the relatively low microalgal biomass recorded may be an artifact of several factors such as phosphorus limitation, herbicide treatment, etc., acting singly or together to depress biomass levels. However, should the balance be upset, the most probable result would be a dramatic increase in microalgal biomass, to the point where harmful algal blooms may ensue. The system therefore needs to be closely monitored to prevent further degradation.

Keywords: euphotic depth, macronutrient availability, microphytobenthos, phytoplankton, seasonality

African Journal of Aquatic Science 2014, 39(3): 327–336
AJOL African Journals Online