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Tropical cyclones: what are their impacts on phytoplankton ecology?


Thompson, PA and Paerl, HW and Campbell, L and Yin, K and McDonald, KS, Tropical cyclones: what are their impacts on phytoplankton ecology?, Journal of Plankton Research Article fbac062. ISSN 0142-7873 (2022) [Refereed Article]

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The Author(s) 2022. This article is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License (

DOI: doi:10.1093/plankt/fbac062


Following the passage of a tropical cyclone (TC) the changes in temperature, salinity, nutrient concentration, water clarity, pigments and phytoplankton taxa were assessed at 42 stations from eight sites ranging from the open ocean, through the coastal zone and into estuaries. The impacts of the TC were estimated relative to the long-term average (LTA) conditions as well as before and after the TC. Over all sites the most consistent environmental impacts associated with TCs were an average 41% increase in turbidity, a 13% decline in salinity and a 2% decline in temperature relative to the LTA. In the open ocean, the nutrient concentrations, cyanobacteria and picoeukaryote abundances increased at depths between 100 and 150 m for up to 3 months following a TC. While at the riverine end of coastal estuaries, the predominate short-term response was a strong decline in salinity and phytoplankton suggesting these impacts were initially dominated by advection. The more intermediate coastal water-bodies generally experienced declines in salinity, significant reductions in water clarity, plus significant increases in nutrient concentrations and phytoplankton abundance. These intermediate waters typically developed dinoflagellate, diatom or cryptophyte blooms that elevated phytoplankton biomass for 13 months following a TC.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:cyclone, plankton, hurricane, phytoplankton, ecology
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Climate variability (excl. social impacts)
UTAS Author:McDonald, KS (Ms Karlie McDonald)
ID Code:154676
Year Published:2022
Deposited By:Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration
Deposited On:2022-12-21
Last Modified:2023-01-12
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