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Open Access Research

Physicochemical and biological factors controlling water column metabolism in Sundarbans estuary, India

Kaberi Chaudhuri1, Suman Manna1, Kakoli Sen Sarma1, Pankaj Naskar1, Somenath Bhattacharyya1 and Maitree Bhattacharyya2*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Environmental Studies and Wetland Management, DD-24, Sector-I, Salt lake, Kolkata, 700064, India

2 Department of Biochemistry, University of Calcutta, 35, Ballygunge Circular Road, Kolkata, 700019, India

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Aquatic Biosystems 2012, 8:26  doi:10.1186/2046-9063-8-26

Published: 19 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Sundarbans is the single largest deltaic mangrove forest in the world, formed at estuarine phase of the Ganges - Brahmaputra river system. Primary productivity of marine and coastal phytoplankton contributes to 15% of global oceanic production. But unfortunately estuarine dynamics of tropical and subtropical estuaries have not yet received proper attention in spite of the fact that they experience considerable anthropogenic interventions and a baseline data is required for any future comparison. This study is an endeavor to this end to estimate the primary productivity (gross and net), community respiration and nitrification rates in different rivers and tidal creeks around Jharkhali island, a part of Sundarbans estuary surrounded by the mangrove forest during a period of three years starting from November’08 to October’11.

Results

Various physical and chemical parameters of water column like pH, temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, suspended particulate matter, secchi disc index, tidal fluctuation and tidal current velocity, standing crop and nutrients were measured along with water column productivity. Relationship of net water column productivity with algal biomass (standing crop), nutrient loading and turbidity were determined experimentally. Correlations of bacterial abundance with community respiration and nitrification rates were also explored. Annual integrated phytoplankton production rate of this tidal estuary was estimated to be 151.07 gC m-2 y-1. Gross primary productivity showed marked inter annual variation being lowest in monsoon and highest in postmonsoon period.

Conclusion

Average primary production was a function of nutrient loading and light penetration in the water column. High aquatic turbidity, conductivity and suspended particulate matter were the limiting factors to attenuate light penetration with negative influence on primary production. Community respiration and nitrification rates of the estuary were influenced by the bacterial abundance. The estuary was phosphorus limited in postmonsoon whereas nitrogen-limited in premonsoon and monsoon period. High algal biomass and primary productivity indicated the estuary to be in eutrophic state in most of the time throughout the year. Our study also indicated a seasonal shifting between autotrophic and heterotrophic conditions in Sundarban estuarine ecosystem and it is a tropical, well mixed (high tidal influx) and marine dominated (no fresh water connection) system.

Keywords:
Net ecosystem metabolism; Gross primary productivity; Community respiration; Nitrification; Nutrient load; Sundarban estuary