Ecosysteme de I′Etang de Berre (Mediterranee nord-occidentale) : Caracteres Generales Physiques, Chimiques et Biologiques

  • Published : 2004.06.01

Abstract

Climatological, hydrological and planktonical research studies, measurements of primary production and photosynthetic efficiency from December 1976 to December 1978 have been carried out in two brackish lakes: Lake Etang de Berre and Lake Etang de Vaine located in the French Mediterranean coast, in the region of Carry-le-Rouet located on the north-west Mediterranean near Marseilles, and in fresh water inflows from 4 Rivers (Touloubre, Durance, Arc, Durancole) to Lake Etang de Berre. Physico-chemical parameters were measured for this study: water temperature, salinity, density, pH, alcalinity, dissolved oxygen (% saturation), phosphate, nitrate, nitrite, silicate etc. Diverse biological parameters were also studied: photosynthetic pigments, phaeopigments, specific composition and biomass of phytoplankton, primary pelagic production etc. Climatical factors were studied: air-temperature, solar-radiation, evaporation, direction (including strength) of winds, precipitation and freshwater volume of the four rivers. The changes in Lake ‘Etang de Berre’ ecosystem depend on the quality of the water in the Durance River, and on the effects of seawater near the entrance of the Caronte Canal. The water quality of the lake varies horizontally and vertically as a result of atmospheric phenomena, maritime currents and tides. The distribution of water temperatures is generally heterogeneous. Southeasterly winds and the Northeasterly Mistral wind are important in the origins of circulated and mixed water masses. These winds are both frequent and strong. They have, as a result, a great effect on the water environment of Lake Etang de Berre. In theory, the annual precipitation in this region is well over eight times the water mass of the lake. The water of the Durance River flows into Lake Etang de Berre through the EDF Canal, amounting to 90% of the precipitation. However, reduction of rainfall in dry seasons has a serious effect on the hydrological characteristics of the lake. The temperature in the winter is partially caused by the low temperature of fresh water, particularly that of the Durance River. The hydrological season of fresh and brackish water is about one month ahead of the hydrological season of sea water in its vicinity. The salinity of Lake Etang de Berre runs approximately 3$\textperthousand$, except at lower levels and near the entrance to the Caronte Canal. However, when the volume of the Durance River water is reduced in the summer and fall, the salinity rises to 15$\textperthousand$. In the lake, the ratio of fresh water to sea water is six to one (6:1). The large quantities of seston conveyed by rivers, particularly the Durance diversion, strongly reduce the transparency in the brackish waters. Although the amount of sunshine is also notable, transparency is slight because of the large amount of seston, carried chiefly by Tripton in the fresh water of the Durance River. Therefore, photosynthesis generally occurs only in the surface layer. The transparency progressively increases from freshwater to open seawater, as mineral particles sink to the bottom (about 1.7kg $m^{-2}a^{-1}$ on the average in brackish lakes). The concentration of dissolved oxygen and the rate of oxygen saturation in seawater (Carry-le-Rouet) ranged from 5.0 to 6.0 $m\ell$ㆍ.$1^{-1}$, and from 95 to 105%, respectively. The amount of dissolved oxygen in Etang de Berre oscillated between 2.9 and 268.3%. The monographs of phosphate, nitrate, nitrite and silicate were published as a part of a study on the ecology of phytoplankton in these environments. Horizontal and vertical distributions of these nutriments were studied in detail. The recent diversion of the Durance River into Lake Etang de Berre has effected a fundamental change in this formerly marine environment, which has had a great impact in its plankton populations. A total of 182 taxa were identified, including 111 Bacillariophyceae, 44 Chlorophyceae, and 15 Cyanophyceae. The most abundant species are small freshwater algae, mainly Chlorophyceae. The average density is about $10^{8}$ cells $1^{-1}$ in Lake Etang de Berre, and about double that amount in Lake Etang de Vaine. Differences in phytoplankton abundance and composition at the various stations or at various depths are slight. Cell biovolume V (equivalent to true biomass), plasma volume VP (‘useful’ biomass) and, simultaneously. the cell surface area S and S/V ratio through the measurement of cell dimensions were computed as the parameters of phytoplankton productivity and metabolism. Pigment concentrations are generally very high on account of phytoplankton blooms by Cyanophyceae, Chlorophyceae and Cryptophyceae. On the other hand, in freshwaters and marine waters, pigment concentrations are comparatively low and stable, showing slight annual variation. The variations of ATP concentration were closely related to those of chlorophyll a and phytoplankton blooms only in marine waters. The carbon uptake rates ranged between 38 and 1091 mg$Cm^{-2}d^{-1}$, with an average surface value of 256 mg; water-column carbon-uptake rates ranged between 240 and 2310 mg$Cm^{-2}d^{-1}$, with an average of 810, representing 290 mg$Cm^{-2}$, per year 45 000 tons per year of photosynthetized carbon for the whole lake. Gross photosynthetic production measured by the method of Ryther was studied over a 2-year period. The values obtained from marine water(Carry-le-Rouet) ranged from 23 to 2 337 mg$Cm^{-2}d^{-1}$, with a weighted average of 319, representing about 110 gCm$^{-2}$ per year. The values in brakish water (Etang de Berre) ranged from 14 to 1778 mg$Cm^{-2}d^{-1}$, with a weighted average of 682, representing 250 mg$Cm^{-2}$ per year and 38 400 tons per year of photosynthesized carbon for the whole lake.

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