Open Access

Tidal impact on planktonic primary and bacterial production in the German Wadden Sea

  • K. Poremba,
  • U. Tillmann and
  • K.-J. Hesse
Helgoland Marine Research53:90530019.10152


Tidal variation of biological parameters was studied at three anchor stations in selected inlet channels of the northern German Wadden Sea in May and July 1994. Concentrations of bacteria, chlorophyll a and suspended matter as well as primary and bacterial production were assessed over a period of 25 h in the surface and in the bottom water. Diurnal variation in primary production was found both under in situ light conditions and under constant illumination. Tidal turbulence caused the introduction of detritus, bacteria and pigments from the sediment into the water column. The impact of sediment resuspension was most evident in the bottom water, leading to tidally oscillating bacterial production rates which were high during high stream velocity and low during the slack times. Estimations of the areal daily phytoplankton production and corresponding bacterial carbon demands were unbalanced. Primary production accounted for only 25–45% of the total bacterial carbon requirement. This discrepancy is due to the shallow euphotic depth in the Wadden Sea, allowing net primary production only in the upper 2–3 m of the water column, while the relatively high levels of bacterial activity do not show a vertical decline. Assuming that the specific biological activities in the water columns over the tidal flats are similar to those found in the inlet channels, it was found that production processes dominate in shallow areas whereas decomposition processes dominate in the deep channels. Moreover, the predominance of heterotrophic processes in the inlet channels means that additional organic carbon sources must contribute to the heterotrophic metabolism in the deep parts of the Wadden Sea, and that the horizontal flux of material is important in this turbid mesotidal ecosystem.

Key words Tidal variation Wadden Sea Production and decomposition