Seasonal and sub-seasonal oxygen and nutrient fluctuations in an embayment of an eastern boundary upwelling system: St Helena Bay
Seasonal, sub-seasonal and spatial fluctuations in bottom dissolved oxygen (DO) were examined in St Helena Bay, South Africa’s largest and most productive embayment, between November 2013 and November 2014. Alongshore bay characteristics were assessed through comparison of variables along the 50-m depth contour. A mean coefficient of variation of 0.35 provided a measure of the relative variability of near-bottom DO concentrations along this contour. Consistently lower DO concentrations in the southern region of the bay in summer and autumn are attributed to enhanced retention. Across-shelf transects captured the seasonal development of hypoxia in relation to the distribution of phytoplankton biomass. Exceptional dinoflagellate blooms form extensive subsurface thin layers preceding the autumn DO minima in the south of the bay, prior to winter ventilation of the bottom waters. The seasonal decline in DO concentrations in the bottom waters was marked by sub-seasonal events of hypoxia, and ultimately anoxia linked to episodic deposition of organic matter, as indicated by increases in bottom chlorophyll-a concentrations. Seasonal changes in bottom water macronutrient concentrations followed trends in apparent oxygen utilisation (AOU), both of which mirrored DO concentrations. In the south of the bay, nitrogen loss through denitrification/anammox in suboxic waters was indicated by a dissolved inorganic N deficit in the bottom waters, which was most pronounced in autumn.
Keywords: anoxia, apparent oxygen utilization, dinoflagellate blooms, dissolved oxygen, hypoxia, intensive sampling, nitrogen deficit, seasonal fluctuations