Setting background nutrient levels for coastal waters with oceanic influences

TitleSetting background nutrient levels for coastal waters with oceanic influences
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsSmith, AF, Fryer, RJ, Webster, L, Berx, B, Taylor, A, Walsham, P, Turrell, WR
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Pagination69 - 79
Date Published2014/05/20
ISBN Number0272-7714
Keywordsbaseline studies, environmental monitoring, eutrophication, nutrients (mineral), Scotland, UK

Nutrient enrichment of coastal water bodies as a result of human activities can lead to ecological changes. As part of a strategy to monitor such changes and detect potential eutrophication, samples were collected during research cruises conducted around the Scottish coast each January over the period 2007–2013. Data were obtained for total oxidised nitrogen (TOxN; nitrite and nitrate), phosphate and silicate, and incorporated into data-driven spatial models. Spatial averages in defined sea areas were calculated for each year in order to study inter-annual variability and systematic trends over time. Variation between some years was found to be significant (p < 0.05) but no evidence was found for any trends over the time period studied. This may have been due to the relatively short time series considered here. Modelled distributions were developed using data from groups of years (2007–2009, 2010–2011 and 2012–2013) and compared to the OSPAR Ecological Quality Objectives (EcoQOs) for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN; the concentration of TOxN and ammonia), the ratio of DIN to dissolved inorganic phosphorous (N/P) and the ratio of DIN to dissolved silicate (N/S). In these three models, TOxN was below the offshore background concentration of 10 μM (12 μM at coastal locations) over more than 50% of the modelled area while N/S exceeded the upper assessment criterion of 2 over more than 50% of the modelled area. In the 2007–2009 model, N/P was below the background ratio (16) over the entire modelled area. In the 2010–2011 model the N/P ratio exceeded the background in 91% of the modelled area but remained below the upper assessment criterion (24). Scottish shelf sea waters were found to be depleted in TOxN relative to oceanic waters. This was not accounted for in the development of background values for the OSPAR EcoQOs so new estimates of these background values were derived. The implications of these results for setting reasonable background nutrient levels when the relationship between oceanic and coastal nutrient compositions is complex are discussed.

Short TitleEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science