Marine Biology

, Volume 112, Issue 1, pp 165–174 | Cite as

Toxic phytoplankton blooms in the southwestern Gulf of Maine: testing hypotheses of physical control using historical data

  • P. J. S. Franks
  • D. M. Anderson


Blooms of the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium tamarense Lebour have been nearly annual features along the coasts of southern Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, USA, since 1972. In 1990 two hypotheses which have been used to explain the initiation of these blooms in the southwestern portion of the Gulf of Maine were tested using historical records of shellfish toxicity, wind, and river flow. The first hypothesis states that the blooms were initiated or advected to shore by wind-driven coastal upwelling. The second states that established blooms were advected from north to south alongshore in a coastally trapped buoyant plume of water. Of the eleven years examined (1979 to 1989), we found seven cases inconsistent with the wind-driven upwelling hypothesis, and only one case (1985) which contradicts the plume-advection hypothesis. 1985 was an unusual year in many respects, and we suggest that some other mechanism was responsible for the toxic outbreaks. In addition, the wind-driven upwelling hypothesis could not explain the observed north-to-south temporal progression of toxicity each year. The plume-advection hypothesis was found to best explain the datails of the timing and spread of shellfish toxicity in Gulf of Maine waters to the south of Penobscot Bay, Maine. These include the variable north-to-south progression with time, the presence of a toxin-free zone south of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, the sporadic nature of toxic outbreaks south of Massachusetts Bay, and the apparently rare occurrence of high toxicity levels well offshore on Nantucket Shoals and Georges Bank.


Phytoplankton Dinoflagellate Phytoplankton Bloom Coastal Upwelling Buoyant Plume 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. J. S. Franks
    • 1
  • D. M. Anderson
    • 1
  1. 1.Woods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionMassachusettsWoods HoleUSA

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