The East River tidal strait, New York City, New York, a high-nutrient, low-chlorophyll coastal system

Document Type : Original Article


NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Milford Laboratory, Milford, CT, 06460, USA



The East River tidal strait, located between New York Harbor and Western Long Island Sound, is characterized by high suspended silt concentrations with low organic content kept in suspension by intense tidal currents. Inorganic nutrients, including nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, and phosphate, were high even during the summer. Dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) concentrations generally were above 20 µM and did not likely limit phytoplankton growth. Despite high nutrient concentrations, median chlorophyll a concentration was only 1.53 µg l−1, making the East River tidal strait a high-nutrient, low-chlorophyll (HNLC) area, likely a result of suspended silt blocking light penetration into the surface water. There were times at which the ratio of mixed layer to depth of the euphotic zone was generally greater than what has been suggested for phytoplankton to produce net primary production. The high-nutrient East River tidal strait is likely one of the sources of nutrients fueling summer phytoplankton production and consequent hypoxia in the Western Long Island Sound as silt settles from surface water in the lower turbulence conditions of the western narrows of Long Island Sound, thereby allowing light penetration and subsequent consumption of dissolved nutrients by phytoplankton.