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Red Waters of Myrionecta rubra are Biogeochemical Hotspots for the Columbia River Estuary with Impacts on Primary/Secondary Productions and Nutrient Cycles

Lydie Herfort; Tawnya D. Peterson; Fredrick G. Prahl; Lee Ann McCue; Joseph A. Needoba; Byron C. Crump; G. Curtis Roegner; Victoria Campbell; Peter Zuber

(Profiled Authors: Peter Zuber; Joseph Needoba; Tawnya Peterson)

Estuaries and Coasts. 2012;35(3):878-891.


The localized impact of blooms of the mixotrophic ciliate Myrionecta rubra in the Columbia River estuary during 2007-2010 was evaluated with biogeochemical, light microscopy, physiological, and molecular data. M. rubra affected surrounding estuarine nutrient cycles, as indicated by high and low concentrations of organic nutrients and inorganic nitrogen, respectively, associated with red waters. M. rubra blooms also altered the energy transfer pattern in patches of the estuarine water that contain the ciliate by creating areas characterized by high primary production and elevated levels of fresh autochthonous particulate organic matter, therefore shifting the trophic status in emergent red water areas of the estuary from net heterotrophy towards autotrophy. The pelagic estuarine bacterial community structure was unaffected by M. rubra abundance, but red waters of the ciliate do offer a possible link between autotrophic and heterotrophic processes since they were associated with elevated dissolved organic matter and showed a tendency for enhanced microbial secondary production. Taken together, these findings suggest that M. rubra red waters are biogeochemical hotspots of the Columbia River estuary. © 2012 Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation.

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