Factors favouring phytoplankton blooms in the northern Adriatic: towards the northern Adriatic empirical ecological model
Abstract. Influenced by one of the largest Mediterranean rivers, Po, the northern Adriatic (NA) production is highly variable seasonally and interannually. The changes are especially pronounced between winters and seemingly reflect on total Adriatic bioproduction of certain species (anchovy). We analysed the long-term changes in the phytoplankton production in the region, as derived from monthly oceanographic cruises, in relation to concomitant geostrophic currents distribution in the area and to Po River discharge rates in days preceding the cruises. In winter and early spring the phytoplankton abundances depended on existing circulation fields, in summer and autumn they were related to Po River discharge rates 1–15 days earlier and on concomitant circulation fields, while in late spring phytoplankton abundances increased 1–3 days after high Po River discharge rates regardless of the circulation fields. During the entire year the phytoplankton abundances were dependent on forcing of the previous 1–12 months of surface fluxes and/or Po River rates. The role of wind was uncertain but that was partly due to unmatched sampling time frames between meteorological and sea data. Low evaporation rates in November reflected significantly on the next February circulation pattern and, although with somewhat lower significance, on large phytoplankton blooms in the same month. We showed that the role of wind in evaporative flux enhancements is not straightforward as evaporative fluxes are highly dependent on other factors, e.g. air–sea temperature difference. Wind-induced vertical mixing was only sporadically related to phytoplankton abundances. From 1990 to 2004 a shift towards large winter bioproduction induced by circulation changes appeared. The investigations performed represent the preliminary actions in the construction of an empirical ecological model of the NA which can be used in the sustainable economy of the region, as well as for validation of the numerical ecological model of the region, which is currently being developed.