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macroalgal blooms, Ulva prolifera, phytoplankton, nutrient competition, chlorophyll-a, ocean color, MODIS, Yellow Sea

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Since 2008, the world’s largest blooms of the green macroalgae, Ulva prolifera, have occurred every summer in the Yellow Sea, posing the question of whether these macroalgal blooms (MABs) have changed the phytoplankton biomass due to their perturbations of nutrient dynamics. We have attempted to address this question using long-term Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) observations. A new MODIS monthly time-series of chlorophyll-a concentrations (Chl-a, an index of phytoplankton biomass) was generated after removing the macroalgae-contaminated pixels that were characterized by unexpectedly high values in the daily Chl-a products. Compared with Chl-a during July of 2002–2006 (the pre-MAB period), Chl-a during July of 2008–2012 (the MAB period) exhibited significant increases in the offshore Yellow Sea waters (rich in macroalgae), with mean Chl-a increased by 98% from 0.64 µg/L to 1.26 µg/L in the study region. In contrast, no significant Chl-a changes were observed during June between the two periods. After analyzing sea surface temperature, photosynthetically available radiation, and nutrient availability, we speculate that the observed Chl-a changes are due to nutrient competition between macroalgae and phytoplankton: during the MAB period, the fast-growing macroalgae would uptake the increased nutrients from the origin of Jiangsu Shoal; thus, the nutrients available to phytoplankton were reduced, leading to no apparent increases in biomass in the offshore Yellow Sea in June.

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Remote Sensing, v. 7, issue 9, p. 12297-122313

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