Ecosystem metabolism and carbon fluxes of a tidally-dominated coastal lagoon

Rui Santos*, João Silva, Ana Alexandre, Nuria Navarro, Cristina Barrón, Carlos M. Duarte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


The metabolism and carbon flux in the western sector of the highly dynamic coastal lagoon Ria Formosa (south Portugal) were assessed to elucidate the relative importance of the contribution of the main communities, the treated sewage inputs from the adjacent city of Faro, and the exchange with the adjacent coastal waters to the ecosystem metabolism. The results depict the Ria Formosa as being a highly productive ecosystem dominated by the seagrass Zostera noltii. The community dominated by the seagrass Cymodocea nodosa had half of the gross production of Z. noltii, followed by bare sediments and phytoplankton. The net contribution of seagrasses to community metabolism was negligible, as both Z. noltii and C. nodosa showed a production:respiration ratio close to 1. Benthic microalgae emerge as the most important components of the net metabolism. The western sector of Ria Formosa was in metabolic balance during the summer when the study was done. Even though the total net ecosystem production was 7.22 Kmol C d-1, the error associated with this estimate was 8.38 Kmol C d-1, so ecosystem net production was not significantly different from zero. The Ria Formosa ecosystem is shallow and rapidly flushed by the tides, which force an important exchange of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and paniculate organic carbon (POC) with the adjacent coastal waters. The daily net export rate to the adjacent coastal waters, 0.98 Kmol d-1, represented 7.6% of the net ecosystem production, suggesting that the bulk of the net ecosystem production accumulates within the ecosystem. The organic carbon retention in the western sector of the Ria Formosa is higher than net production, because the allochthonous carbon inputs from urban sewage enter the carbon mass balance with about 40% of the autochthonous processes, at about 1.6 Kmol d-1 of DOC and 2.8 Kmol d-1 of POC. The western sector of Ria Formosa has an organic carbon sink of about 46.4 tons per year. Most of this is harvested in the form of molluscs (clams, cuttlefish, etc.) and fish (sea bream, sea bass, etc.). The total carbon harvested every year in the form of bivalves is about 40 tons, rendering the Ria Formosa the most productive seafood area in Portugal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)977-985
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Aquatic Science
  • General Environmental Science


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