Does biodiversity of estuarine phytoplankton depend on hydrology?

João Pedro Salgueiro Gomes Ferreira, Willem Jan Wolff, Teresa Castro Simas, Suzanne B. Bricker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


Phytoplankton growth in estuaries is controlled by factors such as flushing, salinity tolerance, light, nutrients and grazing. Here, we show that biodiversity of estuarine phytoplankton is related to flushing, and illustrate this for some European estuaries. The implications for the definition of reference conditions for quality elements in estuaries of different types are examined, leading to the conclusion that constraints on the number of estuarine and coastal types that may be defined for management purposes require that quality classes take into account natural variability within types, in order to be ecologically meaningful. We develop a screening model to predict the growth rate required for a phytoplankton species to be present under different flushing conditions and apply it to estuaries in the EU and US to show how changes in physical forcing may alter biodiversity. Additional results are presented on the consequences for eutrophication, showing that changes in residence time may interact with species-specific nutrient uptake rates to cause shifts in species composition, potentially leading to effects such as harmful algal blooms. We discuss applications for integrated coastal zone management, and propose an approach to normalization of estuarine phytoplankton composition as regards species numbers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-523
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Modelling
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2005


  • Typology
  • Water Framework Directive
  • Biodiversity
  • Estuary
  • Phytoplankton
  • Screening model


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