Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 455–469 | Cite as

Seasonal and Interannual Variability in Net Ecosystem Production of a Subtropical Coastal Lagoon Inferred from Monthly Oxygen Surveys

  • Lauren E. Seidensticker
  • Raymond G. NajjarEmail author
  • Maria Herrmann
  • Joseph N. Boyer
  • Henry O. Briceño
  • W. Michael Kemp
  • Daniel J. Tomaso


A central organizing concept in estuarine biogeochemistry is net ecosystem production (NEP). However, estimates of seasonal and interannual variability of whole-system estuarine NEP, which provide insight into how estuaries respond to climatic and anthropogenic forcing, are rare. The main objectives of this study are to (1) determine the seasonal and interannual variability in whole-system NEP of Biscayne Bay, a subtropical, shallow estuary located in southeastern Florida, USA, and (2) determine the potential driving mechanisms of NEP in this estuary. We compute monthly NEP over more than 12 years by constructing the dissolved oxygen budget for the estuary from monthly snapshot oxygen survey data (i.e., collected once per month). High-frequency observations of oxygen in similar subtropical estuaries were used to quantify the error associated with the snapshot monthly sampling. Oxygen air–water exchange and NEP closely balanced each other, with the long-term mean NEP (± 2 standard errors) equal to − 5.3 ± 0.3 mol O2 m−2 year−1, indicating net heterotrophy. Significant seasonality was found, with lowest NEP in September. At monthly time scales, NEP was significantly positively correlated with chlorophyll and total phosphorus and significantly negatively correlated with canal flow. Interannual variability in NEP was substantial, and the bay temporarily shifted from net heterotrophy to net autotrophy after the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, probably in response to increases in nutrients from runoff and resuspension. These findings show that monthly oxygen surveys can be used to quantify whole-system estuarine NEP and that Biscayne Bay NEP is sensitive to climatic and anthropogenic forcing on seasonal and interannual timescales.


Net ecosystem production Oxygen balance Biscayne Bay Gas exchange 



We acknowledge Frank Marshall (Cetacean Logic Foundation, Inc.) and Kate Colna (undergraduate REU student) for their contributions. National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) data were collected as part of an award from the Estuarine Reserves Division, Office for Coastal Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. We thank the principal investigators of the six reserves we used data from: Rebecca Bernard, Mark Woodrey, Nikki Dix, Edward Buskey, Kevin Cunniff, and Scott Phipps.


This research was supported by The Pennsylvania State University’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in Climate Science, funded by the National Science Foundation (grant number AGS-1263225), and directed by Jose Fuentes and Jon Nese; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems Program (grant numbers NNX14AM37G and NNX17AH03G).

Supplementary material

12237_2018_482_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.9 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 3014 kb)


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric ScienceThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Center for the EnvironmentPlymouth State UniversityPlymouthUSA
  3. 3.Southeast Environmental Research CenterFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  4. 4.Horn Point LaboratoryUniversity of Maryland Center for Environmental ScienceCambridgeUSA

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