Patterns of publication effort in coastal biogeochemistry: A bibliometric survey (1971 to 2003)

Jean Pierre Gattuso*, Nelly A. Dawson, Carlos M. Duarte, Jack J. Middelburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


A bibliographic database comprising 17 604 references on biogeochemistry and disturbances in coastal ecosystems was compiled for the period 1971 to 2004 from the Aquatic Science and Fisheries Abstracts and the Web of Science databases. The coastal ocean received increased attention starting in the early 1990s, as shown by the increase in the rate of publication, both in absolute number (2-fold increase of the yearly rate) and relative to the publication rate of all disciplines (3-fold increase). The number of publications on each ecosystem type and the geographic location of study sites are not proportional to their respective surface area. By this measure, estuaries and the open continental shelf are, respectively, over- and under-investigated, and the research effort is disproportionately high in some areas (e.g. the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, the subjects of 41% of the publications) and low in other areas (e.g. high-latitude coastal zones and the western Pacific). The cycling of inorganic nutrients is the biogeochemical process receiving the highest research effort (46% of the publications). Although controversial, exchanges with the atmosphere, including CO2, have been poorly investigated, with only 1.3% of the publications. The magnitude of scientific community publishing increased 13-fold during the period of investigation, also demonstrating the growing interest in coastal biogeochemistry and disturbances. Moreover, the lists of authors have become longer, perhaps indicating research projects wider in scope. Senior authors from 137 countries contributed papers; the EU25 and the USA contributed about 1/3 of the publications each. The number of publications per million inhabitants is highly correlated to the gross domestic product per inhabitant, but some countries perform better (the Scandinavian countries, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) or less well (Japan, the USA and Italy) than average. The number of citations of the publications is highly variable and indicates that barriers between disciplines still exist. At least 2 specialized journals (Estuaries and Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science) are among the most relevant journals, but Marine Ecology Progress Series is the single most important source of literature in the fields of coastal biogeochemistry and disturbances. This diagnostic should be useful to the research community and funding agencies to address the present imbalances in research allocation and to steer attention to geographical areas and processes that remain poorly investigated. Only then can the role of the coastal ocean on the global biogeochemical cycles and its response to climatic and anthropogenic disturbances be clarified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-22
Number of pages14
StatePublished - Jun 9 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Affiliation
  • Bibliometry
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Citations
  • Coastal ecosystems
  • Disturbances
  • Journals
  • Study sites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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