A change in phytoplankton community index with water quality improvement in Tolo Harbour, Hong Kong

ArticleinMarine Pollution Bulletin 127 · October 2017with 75 Reads 
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Abstract
Water quality in Tolo Harbour and Channel (Tolo) has been improved since 1998 after the diversion of sewage effluent. However, it remains poorly understood how nutrient loading reduction has impacted the phytoplankton community. To evaluate this, we applied a Phytoplankton Community Index PI(mp) to the 23-year data (1991-2013) at inner (TM4) and outer (TM8) sites in Tolo, with the former being more eutrophic than the latter. The results show that 1) the phytoplankton community changed with time after sewage diversion; 2) "diatoms and dinoflagellates" were better indicators of nutrient impact than "autotrophic/mixotrophic and heterotrophic dinoflagellates"; 3) the rate of recovery differed between the two stations, but both reached a similar state at a similar time; 4) seasonality of the phytoplankton community showed greater disturbance in spring than in other seasons. Our findings indicate that the nutrient reduction in the Tolo resulted in a positive change in the phytoplankton community.

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    Tett, P., Carreira, C., Mills, D. K., van Leeuwen, S., Foden, J., Bresnan, E., and Gowen, R. J. 2008. Use of a Phytoplankton Community Index to assess the health of coastal waters. – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 65: 1475–1482. Monitoring of marine-ecosystem status and health requires indicators of community structure and function. As a structural indicator, we propose a Phytoplankton Community Index (PCI) based on the abundance of “life-forms” such as “pelagic diatoms” or “medium-sized autotrophic dinoflagellates”. To calculate the PCI, data showing seasonal variation in these abundances are plotted in “life-form space” of two or more dimensions. Data from a “type-specific reference condition” are then enclosed within a reference envelope. Comparison data are plotted into the same coordinate system, and the PCI is the proportion (between 0 and 1) of these new data that fall within the reference envelope. Results from initial applications of this method are shown for UK coastal waters in the northern North Sea (near Stonehaven), a Scottish fjord (Loch Creran), and the eastern Irish Sea (including Liverpool Bay). The Stonehaven data (1997–2005) were used to compare values obtained from weekly sampling with those from monthly sampling. A spatial comparison between more- and less-nutrient-enriched waters in the eastern Irish Sea (1991–2003) showed little difference in phytoplankton community structure. Loch Creran has experienced a large change in the “balance of organisms”, and hence a reduction in the PCI, between 1979–1981 and 2006/2007, associated with a decrease in chlorophyll but no apparent change in nutrients. These results are discussed in relation to the intended uses of the PCI as an index of biological quality for the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and an index of ecosystem health in the context of eutrophication. Although the method only measures change, it can also be used as an indicator of biological quality if the reference conditions are those defined for a WFD waterbody, and as an indicator of health if appropriately calibrated. Suggestions are made for further development.
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    Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, received increasing amounts of sewage from the 1950s through 1977. Most sewage was diverted from the bay in 1977 and early 1978. This investigation, begun in January 1976 and continued through August 1979, described the bay over that period, with particular reference to the responses of the ecosystem to sewage diversion. The sewage was a nutritional subsidy. All of the inorganic nitrogen and most of the inorganic phosphorus introduced into the ecosystem were taken up biologically before being advected from the bay. The major uptake was by phytoplankton, and the internal water-column cycle between dissolved nutrients, phytoplankton, zooplankton, microheterotrophs, and detritus supported a rate of productivity far exceeding the rate of nutrient loading. These water-column particles were partly washed out of the ecosystem and partly sedimented and became available to the benthos. The primary benthic response to nutrient loading was a large buildup of detritivorous heterotrophic biomass. Cycling of nutrients among heterotrophs, autotrophs, detritus, and inorganic nutrients was important. With sewage diversion, the biomass of both plankton and benthos decreased rapidly. Benthic biological composition has not yet returned to presewage conditions, partly because some key organisms are long-lived and partly because the bay substratum has been perturbed by both the sewage and other human influences.
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    Hong Kong waters in the northern part of the South China Sea are subjected to seasonal oceanographic processes due to monsoonal winds and Pearl River outflow. Several 100 red tides have occurred in Hong Kong waters during 1983 to 1998, and show a clear spatial and temporal distribution. Most (74%) occurred in semi-enclosed NE bays away from the Pearl River estuary, and fewer occurred in western estuarine waters. Most red tides (70%) occurred between December and May, and fewer in summer. However, nutrients are high in the Pearl River estuary, whereas nutrients are generally low in the NE bays (Mirs Bay and Port Shelter) and cannot support the high biomass of red tides. This suggests that there are concentrating mechanisms promoting the formation of red tides in NE waters, either by vertical migration or horizontal aggregation under suitable wind conditions (NE winds and moderate speeds around 6 m s–1). The prevailing NE monsoon winds in winter and spring result in downwelling and a longer residence time of waters in the NE bays, creating conditions similar to those of a batch culture, and allowing local inputs of nutrients and vertical migration of phytoplankton in shallow waters to play a dominant role in favor of local red tides. This may be one of the reasons why more red tides occur in winter and spring in semi-enclosed waters. In summer, the SW monsoon winds result in upwelling along the coast, and high river discharge and rainfall cause an increased estuarine circulation in the Pearl River estuary and rapid outflow of the surface water from these semi-enclosed waters. As a result, residence time of these waters decreases, and they may be analogous to semi-continuous or continuous cultures. This may explain why there are fewer red tides in summer. The species occurring most frequently are (in descending order) Noctiluca scintillans, Gonyaulax polygramma, Skeletonema costatum, Mesodinium rubrum, Prorocentrum minimum and Ceratium furca. In general, dinoflagellate red tides occur mostly in April when Si is low, whereas diatom red tides occur in June when Si increases due to the freshwater discharge. Deep oceanic water on the continental shelf is drawn into the NE bays during the upwelling; it is poor in nutrients, and does not favor nutrient acquisition in deep water by vertical migrating dinoflagellates. Yes Yes
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    The long-term temporal and spatial dynamics of marine coastal water quality in Tolo Harbor, Hong Kong were explored. The Harbor is divided into three zones represented as Harbor, Buffer, and Channel Subzones. The time range for the study covers the period from the 1970s to the 1990s. The selected indicators for the comprehensive assessment of water quality consist of physical, chemical and biological aspects, including suspended solids(SS), Secchi disk depth(SD), 5-day biochemical oxygen demand(BOD5), total nitrogen (TN), total phosphorus(TP), faecal coliform, chlorophyll-a(Chl-a), and the number of red tide occurrences. The results indicated the presence of obvious temporal and spatial trends with regard to changes in water quality. Spatially, water quality in the Channel Subzone is the best, while that in the Harbor Subzone is the worst. On a temporal basis, the average trend from bad to good was 1980s > 1990s > 1970s as indicated by most of the selected water quality indicators. Water quality during the late 1980s reached its worst level with the lowest SD, the highest BOD5, TN, TP, Chl-a concentrations, and the number of red tide occurrences. These long-term temporal-spatial water quality trends were also found in other studies of the Tolo Harbor. The large quantity of pollutants produced as a result of increasing population, industrial and commercial actives, and urbanization and industrialization trends in both Shatin and Tai Po seem to be primarily responsible for the changes in marine coastal water quality.
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    To evaluate the success of almost 20 years of pollution abatement in the Bilbao estuary watershed in northern Spain, we analyzed temporal trends in pollution discharges and water quality from 1993 to 2003. Over that period a great portion of the raw wastewater discharge was intercepted and treated, leading to a significant reduction in the pollution load to the estuary (51.8% in biochemical oxygen demand, 70.9% in ammonia nitrogen and 81.9% in faecal coliforms). Temporal trends of mean annual levels of water quality variables showed statistically significant increases in dissolved oxygen saturation (between 2.04 and 4.11%/year) and decreases in ammonia nitrogen (between -4.15 and -175.75 microM NH3/year) and faecal coliforms concentrations (from 2.55 x 10(5) to 2.13 x 10(4) CFU/100ml). The improvement of the Bilbao estuary water quality reported in this paper is primarily attributed to the pollution abatement measures accomplished by the local water authority. Finally, as a result of these pollution control efforts, European bathing water quality standards were met at local beaches.
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    An understanding of undesirable disturbance to the balance of organisms is needed to diagnose marine eutrophication as defined by EU Directives and OSPAR. This review summarizes the findings of the UK Defra-funded Undesirable Disturbance Study Team, which concluded that 'an undesirable disturbance is a perturbation of a marine ecosystem that appreciably degrades the health or threatens the sustainable human use of that ecosystem'. A methodology is proposed for detecting disturbance of temperate salt-water communities dominated by phytoplanktonic or phytobenthic primary producers. It relies on monitoring indicators of ecosystem structure and vigour, which are components of health. Undesirable disturbance can be diagnosed by accumulating evidence of ecohydrodynamic type-specific changes in: (i) bulk indicators; (ii) frequency statistics; (iii) flux measurements; (iv) structural indicators; and (v) indicator species. These are exemplified by (i) chlorophyll, transparency, dissolved oxygen, and opportunistic seaweed cover; (ii) HABs frequency; (iii) primary production; (iv) benthic and planktonic 'trophic indices'; (v) seagrasses and Nephrops norvegicus. Ecological Quality Objectives are proposed for some of these. Linking the diagnosis to eutrophication requires correlation of changes with nutrient enrichment. The methodology, which requires the development of a plankton community index and emphasizes the importance of primary production as an indicator of vigour, can be harmonized with the EU Water Framework Directive and OSPAR's Strategy to Combat Eutrophication.