Chen, J.; Oseji, O.; Mitra, M.; Waguespack, Y., and Chen, N., 2016. Phytoplankton pigments in Maryland coastal bay sediments as biomarkers of sources of organic matter to benthic community.

In this study, the sources of pelagic organic matter and their transport to the surface sediment in the Maryland Coastal Bays (MCB), part of the U.S. mid-Atlantic coastal lagoon system, were examined. Photosynthetic pigments (chlorophylls a and b), accessory pigments (peridinin, fucoxanthin, zeaxanthin, alloxanthin, etc.), and chlorophyll a decomposition products (chlorophyllide a, pheophorbide a, pheophytin a, and pyropheophytin a) from surface sediments collected at 13 sites in the MCB in March 2013 were analyzed using high performance liquid chromatography. The spatial distributions of diagnostic pigments in surface sediments indicated that organic matter was mainly derived from nano- and picophytoplankton (i.e. cyanobacteria, cryptophytes, and chlorophytes) at sites characterized by high nutrient input, although diatoms dominated the standing phytoplankton biomass throughout the MCB except at one site. We attribute this phenomenon to selective microzooplankton grazing on nano- and picophytoplankton in the cold season and low grazing pressure on large phytoplankton species of diatoms and dinoflagellates resulting in the diatom bloom in early spring. At sites characterized by strong tidal current and mixing of bay waters and ocean waters, information from pigment data supports the deposition of dead/senescent diatoms. Results from this study indicate that nano- and picophytoplankton may play a crucial role in supplying organic matter to the benthic community, although their standing stock is low in the cold season.

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