Nutrient dynamics and phytoplankton development along an estuary–coastal zone continuum: A model study

S. Arndt, G. Lacroix, N. Gypens, P. Regnier, C. Lancelot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


This study presents a first attempt to quantify the biogeochemical transformations and fluxes of carbon and nutrients along the entire mixing zone of the shallow, tidally-dominated estuary–coastal zone continuum of the Scheldt (Belgium/The Netherlands). A fully transient, two-dimensional, nested-grid hydrodynamic model of the continuum is coupled to the biogeochemical MIRO model for the coastal zone and the CONTRASTE model for the estuary. Transient model simulations are performed with a high spatial (80– 750 m) and temporal (30 min) resolution over a period of one year (January–December 1995). The high temporal resolution allows including the short-term variability triggered by the tides, the freshwater discharge and the wind stress. System scale simulations provide time series of nutrient transformations and fluxes along the entire estuary–coastal zone continuum, as well as highly resolved nutrient inventories for the estuarine and the coastal zone sub-domains. Simulation results reveal that the balance between highly variable estuarine nutrient inputs and physical constrains set by the unsteady residual transport field exert an important control on the magnitude and succession of phytoplankton blooms and the ecosystem structure in the coastal zone. In addition, they suggest that the poorly surveyed estuarine–coastal zone interface plays a central role in the continuum. In this dynamic area, marked spatial concentration gradients develop and episodically lead to a reversal of material fluxes from the coast into the estuary. During distinct episodes of the productive period, euryhaline coastal diatoms intrude far upstream into the saline estuary. This intrusion reduces the estuarine nutrient concentrations and export fluxes, thereby reinforcing the nutrient limitation in the coastal area. As a consequence, the estuarine filter does not operate independently from the processes in the coastal zone. The dynamic interplay between the two ecosystems and the intense process rates operating at their transition, therefore, strongly supports our continuum approach.
Translated title of the contributionNutrient dynamics and phytoplankton development along an estuary–coastal zone continuum: A model study
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49 - 66
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Marine Systems
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Elsevier

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