Linkages between coastal runoff and the Florida Keys ecosystem: A study of a dark plume event



[1] Using data collected by satellite sensors, rain and river gauges, and ship surveys, we studied the development and wind-driven transport of a dark water plume from near Charlotte Harbor, Florida, to the Dry Tortugas in the Florida Keys in mid-October 2003. MODIS and SeaWiFS imagery showed that the patch contained an extensive (∼5,500 km2) phytoplankton bloom that formed originally near the central coast of Florida. The data linked the bloom to high nutrient coastal runoff caused by heavy rainfall in June and August. Total N and P required for the bloom, which may contain some Karenia brevis cells, was estimated to be 2.3 × 107 and 1.5 × 106 moles, respectively. The dark color became increasingly dominated by colored dissolved organic matter, toward the Dry Tortugas, where CDOM absorption coefficients (0.08–0.12 m−1 at 400 nm) were 2–3 times higher than the surrounding shelf waters, while chlorophyll and inorganic nutrients decreased to negligible levels.