U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
EPA Science Advisory Board
Background Information

Document NamePicophytoplankton and bacterioplankton in the Mississippi River plume and its adjacent waters
Document AuthorLiu, H.
Dagg, M.
Campbell, L.
Urban-Rich, J.
Short DescriptionEstuaries 27 (1): 147-156
CategorySubgroup 1: Characterization of the Cause(s) of Hypoxia
Publication Year2004

Abstract: Picoplankton abundance and distribution in the Mississippi River plume and its adjacent waters were studied during two cruises in April (high discharge) and October (low discharge) 2000 using flow cytometry. Concentrations of photosynthetic picoplankton, Synechococcus and picoeukaryotes were low in the turbid plume water but high in the coastal waters-i.e., the green waters resulting from mixing of river and oceanic waters. In this region, three types of Synechococcus, characterized by their phycoerythrin chromophore composition, were found: Synechococcus cells with a low phycourobilin to phycoerythrobilin ratio (PUB:PEB) occurred throughout the region and dominated the total Synechococcus abundance during both seasons; high PUB:PEB cells, which are the dominant strains in the open or blue ocean, occurred only at the outer shelf stations; and PEB-only Synechococcus were abundant in most of the surveyed area during April, but were not observed during October. Prochlorococcus cyanobacteria only occurred at the oceanic stations, but extended farther inshore in October compared to April. This was a consequence of the reduced discharge and plume size during October. Picophytoplankton were a less important component of total phytoplankton biomass in the turbid river water and more important in the oligotrophic Gulf water. Seasonally, the contribution of picophytoplankton to total phytoplankton biomass in the surveyed area was higher during low discharge in October than during high discharge in April, even though the spring 2000 river discharge was unusually low and might not present a typical high discharge scenario. The abundance of heterotrophic bacteria was weakly correlated to chlorophyll a (chl a) concentration, but better correlated to picophytoplankton biomass. A higher proportion of High DNA bacteria occurred in the river-impacted regions during both seasons, with the ratio of High DNA bacteria to Low DNA bacteria significantly higher in April.