Phytoplankton dynamics of the feeder rivers of the Humber Estuary
The effect of environmental conditions upon the growth, production and development of river phytoplankton was investigated for the feeder rivers to the Humber Estuary. The study was part of the Land Ocean Interaction Study LOIS) and focused upon the Rivers Trent and Yorkshire Ouse. The influence of physical, chemical and biological factors upon phytoplankton development were measured through routine fieldwork and laboratory analyses. During fieldwork measurements were collected which complemented measurements collected by LOIS colleagues. Data collected in this study included phytoplankton species composition, density and biomass and is situ rates of growth and production. In situ rates of loss through grazing and respiration were also measured. Laboratory investigations concentrated upon the effects of Ught and temperature upon dominant phytoplankton species and were developed to complement fieldwork. The project focused around four main aims. These were basically to assess the size and composition of phytoplankton maxima in the Trent and Ouse, measure in situ rates of growth and production, estimate losses from grazing and to develop models, using the data collected to assess the effect of environmental conditions upon phytoplankton development and autochthonous carbon in the Humber Estuary. The results showed that phytoplankton dynamics in the Trent and Ouse were controlled primarily by discharge, light and temperature. During spring, when conditions were favourable for growth, rapid phytoplankton growth and maximum rates of production were observed. However, spring floods often interrupted die large phytoplankton populations which developed. Other factors such as grazing and sedimentation were also considered as potentially important in the loss of phytoplankton. The turbid nature of the rivers resulted in a fine balance between photosynflietic gain and respirational loss. This temporal change in environmental conditions resulted in a temporal waxing and waning of the phytoplankton. This in turn had an impact upon the seasonality of the flux of autochthonous carbon to the Humber Estuary. Laboratory investigations and development of a photosynthetic model confirmed the importance of light and temperature upon phytoplankton development in these rivers. In terms of phytoplankton growth and production and the flux of autochthonous carbon, the Trent and Ouse were found to be typical of many other European rivers. The study highlighted the importance of the Trent as a source of autochthonous carbon to the Humber Estuary.