Long term changes in the ecosystem in the northern South China Sea during 1976–2004

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Ning, X. ; Lin, C. ; Hao, Q. ; Liu, C. ; Le, F. ; Shi, J. (2009)

Physical and chemical oceanographic data were obtained by seasonal monitoring along a transect (Transect N) in the northern South China Sea (nSCS) during 1976–2004. Fluctuations of DIN (dissolved inorganic nitrogen), seawater temperature (SST and <I>T<sub>av</sub></I> – average temperature of the water column), N:P ratio and salinity (<I>S<sub>av</sub></I> and <I>S</I><sub>200</sub> – salinity at the 200 m layer) exhibited an increasing trend, while those of <I>T</I><sub>200</sub>, DO, P, Si, Si:N and SSS exhibited a decreasing trend. The annual rates of change in DIN, DO, T and S revealed pronounced changes, and the climate trend coefficients, which was defined as the correlation coefficient between the time series of an environmental parameter and the nature number (namely 1,2,3,......<I>n</I>), were 0.38 to 0.89 and significant (<I>p</I>&le;0.01 to 0.05). Our results also showed that the ecosystem has obviously been influenced by the positive trends of both SST and DIN, and negative trends of both DO and P. For example, before 1997, DIN concentrations in the upper layer were very low and N:P ratios were less than half of the Redfield ratio of 16, indicating potential N limitation. However after 1997, all Si:P ratios were &gt;22 and the N<sub><I>av</I></sub>:P<sub><I>av</I></sub> was close to the Redfield ratio, indicating potential P limitation, and therefore N limitation has been reduced after 1997. <br><br> Ecological investigation shows that there have been some obvious responses of the ecosystems to the long-term environmental changes in the nSCS. Chlorophyll-<I>a</I> concentration, primary production, phytoplankton abundance, benthic biomass, cephalopod catch and demersal trawl catch have increased. But phosphorus depletion in upper layer may be related to the shift in the dominant species from diatoms to dinoflagellates and cyanophytes. The ecosystem response was induced by not only anthropogenic activities, but also global climate change, e.g. ENSO. The effects of climate change on the nSCS were mainly through changes in the monsoon winds, and physical-biological oceanography coupling processes. <br><br> In this study physical-chemical parameters were systemic maintained, but the contemporaneous biological data were collected from various sources. Regional response to global climate change is clearly a complicated issue, which is far from well understood. This study was made an attempt to tackle this important issue. For the aim these data were valuable.
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