Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Quantifying macrodetritus fluxes from a small temperate estuary

Rebecca V. Gladstone-Gallagher A D , Dean R. Sandwell A , Andrew M. Lohrer B , Carolyn J. Lundquist B C and Conrad A. Pilditch A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Science, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand.

B National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd (NIWA), PO Box 11115, Hamilton 3216, New Zealand.

C Institute of Marine Science, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand.

D Corresponding author. Email: rgladstonegallagher@gmail.com

Marine and Freshwater Research - https://doi.org/10.1071/MF16408
Submitted: 9 December 2016  Accepted: 9 May 2017   Published online: 17 July 2017

Abstract

Empirical measurements of estuary-to-coast material fluxes usually exclude the fraction of primary production that is exported as macrodetritus (marine plant litter), potentially leaving a gap in our understanding of the role of estuaries as outwelling systems. To address this gap, we sampled water and suspended material seasonally from the mouth of Pepe Inlet, Tairua Estuary, New Zealand. From samples collected hourly over 24 h, we calculated the lateral tidal fluxes (import, export, net flux) of macrodetritus, particulate and dissolved forms of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). Annually, the inlet was a net exporter of N and P (5145 and 362 kg respectively). However, macrodetritus accounted for <13 and <3% of seasonal N and P exports respectively. Macrodetritus is an obvious and visible source of estuary-to-coast subsidy, but our derived nutrient budgets suggest the dissolved and particulate forms dominate the net export of N and P (>87%). Nevertheless, seasonal pulses in the source and supply of macrodetritus may have consequences for the temporal scales over which this resource subsidy affects receiving ecosystems (e.g. intertidal sandflats). These mensurative investigations are useful to inform estuarine nutrient budgets that quantify the ecosystem services provided by temperate estuaries (e.g. contribution to fisheries food webs).

Additional keywords: detritus, estuarine flux, macrophyte detritus, outwelling hypothesis, spatial subsidies.


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