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Spatial and seasonal variability of fractionated phytoplankton biomass and primary production in the frontal region of the Northern Adriatic Sea

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Spatial and seasonal patterns of variation of fractionated phytoplankton biomass and primary production and their relationships with nutrient concentrations were analyzed along an inshore - offshore gradient and in relation to the presence of a frontal system in the Northern Adriatic Sea. Sampling was carried out in winter and summer during four oceanographic cruises (June 1996 and 1997, February 1997 and 1998) as part of the PRISMA II project. Water samples for determining nutrient concentrations, phytoplankton biomass (as Chla) and primary production (as 14 C assimilation) were collected at five optical depths. Sampling stations were located along 2 or 4 parallel transects arranged perpendicularly to the shoreline and the frontal system. The transects were located at such a distance from the coast that the frontal system crossed them at their halfway point. Total dissolved nitrogen (TDN) and total dissolved phosphorus concentrations (TDP) were 12.41 ± 3 .95 mM and 0.146 ± 0 .070 mM, respectively. The values in the two seasonal periods were similar, decreasing along the inshore-offshore gradient. Values for phytoplankton biomass and primary productionwere higher in the winter than the summer cruises, and decreased, in both seasonal periods, along the inshore / offshore gradient. Moreover, in both seasonal periods, picophytoplankton dominated both biomass and productivity, (56% and 44%, respectively) at stations beyond the frontal system, while microphytoplankton was more important at stations inside it (44% and 44%, respectively). Total phytoplankton biomass and primary production were directly related to nutrient concentrations. Regarding size classes, significant patterns of variation with nutrients were observed particularly for biomass. The results indicate that the size structure and function of phytoplankton guilds seem to be mediated by nutrient inflow, as well as by competitive interaction among size fractions.

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