Characterization and comparison of microphytoplankton biomass in the lower reaches of the Biobío River and the adjacent coastal area off Central Chile during autumn-winter conditions
The Biobío River in central Chile is the third largest watershed and second largest river in Chile in terms of discharge volume. Three sampling campaigns were made in the lower reaches of the river and the adjacent coastal ocean to evaluate the influence of the river plume on the physical/chemical conditions and the abundance/biomass of microphytoplankton during autumn-winter conditions. In addition, a preliminary quantification of riverine nutrients, dissolved silica, and phytoplankton carbon flux to the adjacent ocean was also conducted. High nitrate (ño3-) and silicic acid (Si(OH)4) concentration (>18 and 50 μΜ, respectively) was observed in the lower reaches of the river during all field campaigns. Si(OH)4 was even high in surface river plume waters. Hydrographic conditions indicate that river plume waters were piled coastward, and they could drove to the south at the Arauco Gulf. In all sampling, highest microphytoplankton biomass (>5000 μgC m-3) was associated to the lower reaches of the river and river plume waters as they were moving southward. During autumn-winter conditions a significant flux of phytoplankton carbon and nutrients to the adjacent coastal ocean also played an important role in the high biological productivity of this coastal upwelling area. These preliminary results evidence the need to conduct large-term studies, which should consider the importance of these allochthoñous carbon sources in global carbon budgets and coastal food-web models.