The interaction of phytoplankton, zooplankton and currents from 15 months of continuous data in the Mid-Atlantic Bight

C. N. Flagg, C. D. Wirick, S. L. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Fifteen months of data from an acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) and three fluorometers obtained during the SEEP-II program in the southern Mid-Atlantic Bight provide a unique view of the seasonal progression of zooplankton and phytoplankton biomass and their responses to physical forcing. Phytoplankton and zooplankton biomass records were highly variable with a continuum of energy at all frequencies and substantial interannual variation. The zooplankton and phytoplankton spring blooms were coincident; that is, the spring increase in zooplankton biomass did not lag behind that of phytoplankton. The spring bloms were not the dominant events of the records, however; the largest fluctuations were linked to current fluctuations, although not always in the same manner. The seasonal succession of zooplankton and phytoplankton species, together with changes in stratification, led to significant differences in the vertical distribution of biomass and its response to physical forcing. There was about a factor of two difference in the maximum zooplankton biomass between two successive springs, while there was no difference in the phytoplankton blooms. Coherence between the phytoplankton, zooplankton and currents were all low. While individual events usually could be ascribed to along- or cross-shelf advective processes, the apparent extreme variability in horizontal biological gradients makes generalizations, aside from those on seasonal time scales, impossible from a single location. Examination of spring bloom data from two successive springs shows a fairly typical relation between primary and secondary production. Thus, the net daily chlorophyll increases ranged from 2.5 to 7.5%, and zooplankton daily ingestion was estimated at 30-55% of primary production, while 38-67% of the daily production was lost to micro-zooplankton, bacteria and the benthos. Zooplankton daily lossed were estimated to be between 25 and 33%. Time-scale estimates for phytoplankton increases agree with incubation values; however, those for zooplankton were much shorter than their reproduction rate, indicating active aggregation behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-435
Number of pages25
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part II
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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