, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 508–518 | Cite as

Impact of the Spring 2000 phytoplankton bloom in Chesapeake Bay on optical properties and light penetration in the Rhode River, Maryland

  • Charles L. Gallegos
  • Thomas E. Jordan


Accelerating eutrophication manifest as increasing frequency and magnitude of phytoplankton blooms threatens living resources in many estuaries. Effects of large blooms can be difficult to document because blooms are often unexpected and do not always coincide with scheduled sampling programs. Here we use continuously monitored salinity distributions and optical properties to study the spring bloom of the red tide dinoflagellate,Prorocentrumminimum, in the Rhode River, Maryland, a tributary embayment of upper Chesapeake Bay. Salinity distributions, together with weekly cruise measurements of nutrient concentrations, indicate that the bloom commenced with an influx of nitrate at the mouth due to the arrival of a freshet from the Susquehanna River. Arrival of this freshet at the mouth set up an unstable, inverse salinity gradient within the Rhode River. Continuously monitored absorption and scattering spectra indicated that increases in chlorophyll within the Rhode River initially were due to the influx of chlorophyll that had developed in the main stem of the bay. After the influx, much higher concentrations and steep spatial gradients developed within the Rhode River, subsequent to reduced mixing that accompanied re-establishment of a normal estuarine salinity gradient. We used the monitored absorption and scattering coefficients to determine the effect of the bloom on light attenuation coefficients in the Rhode River. The bloom resulted in a nearly three-fold increase in attenuation coefficient. Attenuation was dominated by chlorophyll in the early stages of the bloom and by detritus after the termination of the bloom. Although the bloom lasted only 20 d, the elevated attenuation coefficients due to the bloom exceeded values that would permit growth of submersed vascular plants for a period of about 45 d.


Phytoplankton Photosynthetically Active Radiation Submerge Aquatic Vegetation Diffuse Attenuation Coefficient Inherent Optical Property 
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Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Smithsonian Environmental Research CenterEdgewater

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