Journal of Oceanography

, Volume 68, Issue 3, pp 453–471 | Cite as

Year-round accumulation of particulate organic matter in the estuarine turbidity maximum: comparative observations in three macrotidal estuaries (Chikugo, Midori, and Kuma Rivers), southwestern Japan

  • Keita W. Suzuki
  • Akihide Kasai
  • Kouji Nakayama
  • Masaru Tanaka
Original Article


The inner part of the Ariake Sea is one of the most productive estuarine systems in Japan. To examine potential food items for estuarine organisms, we conducted monthly observations of the dynamics of particulate organic matter along the macrotidal Chikugo River estuary in 2005 and 2006. In the neighboring macrotidal Midori and Kuma River estuaries, comparative observations were made. High turbidity and strong vertical mixing were observed only at low salinities (<10) in the Chikugo River estuary. In contrast, the Midori and Kuma River estuaries were characterized by less turbid and less mixed waters. Concentrations of particulate organic carbon often exceeded 5 mg l−1 in or close to the estuarine turbidity maximum (ETM) of the Chikugo River estuary. However, such high concentrations were rarely observed in the other two estuaries. The observed differences could be attributable to different hydrodynamic processes related to the different lengths of tidal reaches: 23, 8, and 6 km in the Chikugo, Midori, and Kuma Rivers, respectively. In the Chikugo River estuary, spatiotemporal changes of chlorophyll a suggested that phytoplankton occurred abundantly up- and/or downstream from the ETM especially during the warm season. In contrast, pheophytin (i.e., plant detritus) always accumulated in or close to the ETM. Carbon stable isotope ratios and carbon to nitrogen ratios indicated that the plant detritus was derived from phytoplankton and terrestrial plants. The Chikugo River estuary has a high potential to support the production of estuarine organisms through abundant plant detritus in the well-developed ETM all the year round.


Ariake Sea Chikugo River Detritus Estuarine turbidity maximum Kuma River Midori River Particulate organic matter Phytoplankton Salinity Stable isotope 



We wish to express our gratitude to Mr. S. Koga of Okinohata Fisheries Cooperative Association, Mr. T. Tsukamoto of Shimochikugo Fisheries Cooperative Association, Mr. T. Fujimori of Kawaguchi Fisheries Cooperative Association, and S. Fujiwara of Yatsushiro Fisheries Cooperative Association for their kind assistance with the sample collection. We are also grateful to Fukuoka Fisheries & Marine Technology Research Center and Kumamoto Prefectural Fisheries Research Center for their offers of accommodation during the sampling trips. Dr. J. Shoji of Takehara Fisheries Research Laboratory, Hiroshima University, and Dr. R. Sugimoto of the Research Center for Marine Bioresources, Fukui Prefectural University gave us helpful advice and assistance. Dr. T. Wada of Fukushima Prefectural Fisheries Experimental Station and graduate students in our laboratory helped with the field sampling. Photosynthetic pigments and stable carbon isotope ratios were analyzed at the Laboratory of Marine Environmental Microbiology and the Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University, respectively. The study was partly supported by grants-in-aid for scientific research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS; 23580253) and from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Science.


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Copyright information

© The Oceanographic Society of Japan and Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keita W. Suzuki
    • 1
  • Akihide Kasai
    • 2
  • Kouji Nakayama
    • 3
  • Masaru Tanaka
    • 4
  1. 1.Québec-OcéanUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Laboratory of Fisheries and Environmental Oceanography, Graduate School of AgricultureKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  3. 3.Laboratory of Estuarine Ecology, Field Science Education and Research CenterKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  4. 4.International Institute for Advanced StudiesKizugawaJapan

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