African Journal of Marine Science

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Saldanha Bay, South Africa II: estimating bay productivity

G C Pitcher, M E Smith, T A Probyn


Saldanha Bay is a narrow-mouth bay on the west coast of South Africa linked to the southern Benguela upwelling system. Bay productivity was investigated by use of the conventional light-and-dark bottle oxygen method, and, for comparison, through assimilation of the stable isotope tracer 13C. Gross community production GCP and net community production NCP, as determined from the oxygen method, were respectively 2.6 and 2.4 times higher than estimates determined from the stable isotope method. Chlorophyll a (Chl a) concentrations increased with the onset of spring and well-defined subsurface maxima developed in association with increasingly stratified conditions (mean water column Chl a concentrations ranged from 5.4 to 31.5 mg m–3 [mean 15.5 mg m–3; SD 7.6]). A sharp decline in photosynthetic rates P* (GCP normalised to Chl a concentration) with depth was attributed to light limitation, as demonstrated by the high vertical attenuation coefficients for downward irradiance Kd, which varied from 0.29 to 0.70 m–1 (mean 0.48 m–1; SD 0.12). Productivity maxima were consequently near-surface despite the presence of deeper subsurface biomass maxima. The community compensation depth Zcc, where gross community production balances respiratory carbon loss for the entire community, ranged from 2.9 to 9.2 m (mean 5.8 m; SD 2.2), and was typically shallower than the 1% light depth for PAR (photosynthetically available radiation), Z1%PAR, which is traditionally assumed to be the depth of the euphotic zone and which ranged from 6.6 to 15.9 m (mean 9 m; SD 2.6). Autotrophic communities, where organic matter is produced in excess of respiratory demand, were confined on average to the upper 5.8 m of the water column, and often excluded the bulk of the phytoplankton community, where light limitation is considered to lead to heterotrophic community metabolism. Estimates of integrated water column productivity ranged from 0.84 to 8.46 g C m–2 d–1 (mean 3.35 g C m–2 d–1; SD 1.9).

Keywords: 13C isotope method, community compensation depth, gross community production, net community production, oxygen method,
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