Nitrogen cycling in the southern North Sea: Consequences for total nitrogen transport

K Weston, TD Jickels, L Fernard, ER Parker

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Nitrate and ammonium uptake rates were measured during a series of cruises in the well-mixed region of the southern North Sea from February to September. Water column-integrated uptake rates ranged between 0.01 and 8.7 mmol N m -2 d-1 and 0.01 and 12.2 mmol N m-2 d -1 for nitrate and ammonium, respectively, with ammonium uptake dominating after the phytoplankton spring bloom in May. A moored buoy continuously measuring nitrate and chlorophyll a and seabed current meters were also deployed in the central southern North Sea in the region of the East Anglian plume - a permanent physical feature which transports nutrients towards continental Europe. This enabled the flux of water and hence of nutrients across the southern North Sea to be determined and an assessment of the contribution of freshwater nutrients to the flux to be made. A simple box model is developed to relate the phytoplankton uptake of nitrate and ammonium to the transport of nitrate, ammonium and particulate organic matter (POM) across the southern North Sea. This showed the importance of the plume region of the North Sea in the processing of nitrogen, with nitrate dominating total nitrogen transport prior to the spring bloom (10 340 x 103 kg N inflow to the plume in March) and transport of nitrogen as ammonium, nitrate and POM in approximately equivalent amounts during summer (2560, 2960 and 2151 x 10 3 kg N inflow to the plume, respectively, in July). The box model also demonstrates more generally the need to assess nitrogen transport as nitrate, ammonium and POM if an improved understanding of the impact of nutrient input in shelf seas is to be achieved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-573
Number of pages15
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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