Phytoplankton on the western coasts of Baja California in two different seasons in 1998


  • David U. Hernández-Becerril Laboratorio de Diversidad y Ecología del Fitoplancton Marino, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)
  • Ernesto Bravo-Sierra Laboratorio de Diversidad y Ecología del Fitoplancton Marino, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)
  • José A. Aké-Castillo Laboratorio de Diversidad y Ecología del Fitoplancton Marino, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)



Baja California, coccolithophorids, diatoms, El Niño, phytoplankton


Phytoplankton was studied in two different seasons of 1998 (March-April and December), during two cruises along the western coasts of Baja California, in three zones. Two different protocols for obtaining and studying phytoplankton were followed. In the March-April season, phytoplankton had relatively low species richness and was dominated in cell density (up to 93%) by coccolithophorids (mainly Emiliania huxleyi), together with nanoplanktonic centric and pennate diatoms, with abundances ranging from 5.4 103 to 1.2 105 cells L-1. In December, phytoplankton had higher species richness and was represented by larger, chain-forming diatom species, such as Pseudonitzschia delicatissima and P. pungens, which were widespread and numerically significant. There was a relative scarcity of coccolithophorids and thecate dinoflagellates, and densities were between 7 102 and 1.4 106 cells L-1. Hydrographic and oceanographic conditions in March-April were influenced by the occurrence of El Niño and the phytoplankton structure was found to be modified accordingly, with nanoplanktonic coccolithophorids and diatoms being significant contributors to the total abundance. In contrast, post-upwelling conditions might have favoured relatively high densities of Pseudonitzschia and other diatoms in December, 1998. Coccolithophorids have not been previously regarded as important contributors to the phytoplankton abundances in Baja California.


Download data is not yet available.


Adams, N.G., M. Lesoing and V.L. Trainer. – 2000. Environmental condition associated with domoic acid in razor clams on the Washington coast. J. Shellfish Res., 19: 1007-1015.

Aguirre-Hernández, E., G. Gaxiola-Castro, S. Nájera-Martínez, T. Baumgartner, M. Kahru and B.G. Mitchell. – 2004. Phytoplankton absorption, photosynthesis parameters, and primary production off Baja California: summer and autumn 1998. Deep-Sea Res. II, 51: 799-816.

Allen, W.E. – 1923. Observations on surface distribution of marine plankton diatoms of Lower California in 1921. Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci., 12: 438-442.

Allen, W.E. – 1924. Observations on surface distribution of marine plankton diatoms of Lower California in 1922. Ecology, 5: 389-392. doi:10.2307/1929301

Allen, W.E. – 1934. Marine plankton diatoms of lower California in 1931. Bot. Gaz., 95: 485-492. doi:10.1086/334403

Balch, W.M. – 2004. Re-evaluation of the physiological ecology of coccolithophores. In: H.R. Thierstein and J.R. Young (eds.), Coccolithophores. From Molecular Processes to Global Impact, pp. 165-190. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Balech, E. – 1960. The changes in the phytoplankton population off the California coast. Cal. Coop. Ocean. Fish. Inv. Rep., 7: 127-132.

Bargu, S., M.W. Silver. – 2003. Field evidence of krill grazing on the toxic diatom genus Pseudo-nitzschia in Monterey Bay, California. Bull. Mar. Sci., 72: 629-638.

Bollmann, J., M.Y. Cortés, A.T. Haidar, B. Brabec, A. Close, R. Hofmann, S. Palma, L. Tupas and H.R. Thierstein. – 2002. Techniques for quantitative analyses of calcareous marine phytoplankton. Mar. Micropaleontol., 44: 163-185. doi:10.1016/S0377-8398(01)00040-8

Brand, L.E. – 1982. Genetic varibility and spatial patterns of genetic differentiation in the reproductive rates of the marine coccolithophorids Emiliania huxleyi and Gephyrocapsa oceanica. Limnol. Oceanog., 27: 236-245.

Brand, L.E. – 1994. Physiological ecology of marine coccolithophores. In: Winter, A. and W.G Siesser (eds.), Coccolithophores. pp. 39-49. Cambridge Univ. Press, New York.

Cardona Canizales, C., R. Millán-Núñez, J.R. Lara-Lara and J.E. Valdez-Holguín. – 1990. Variabilidad espacio temporal de la clorofila a en una zona de surgencia frente a Baja California. Cienc. Mar., 16: 53-65.

Cohen Fernández, E.J. – 2000. Estructura y dinámica de la comunidad de fitoplancton en la boca de Bahía Magdalena, costa occidental de Baja California Sur, México. M. Sc. Thesis. Fac. Ciencias, UNAM, México.

Estrada, M. and D. Blasco. – 1979. Two phases of the phytoplankton community in the Baja California upwelling. Limnol. Oceanogr., 24: 1065-1080.

Fryxell, G.A. – 2000. Nitzschia bicapitata (Bacillariophyceae) and related taxa from oceanic aggregations. Diatom Res., 15: 43-73.

Gómez-Aguirre, S. – 1999. Florecimientos de fitoplancton invernal (1998-1999) en el NW de México. Abstracts X Meeting of the Mexican Society of Planctology and III International Meeting of Planctology. Mazatlán, Sinaloa, México, 28-30 April, 1999.

González Morales, A.T. and G. Gaxiola-Castro. – 1991. Variación día a día de características fisico-químicas, biomasa y productividad primaria del fitoplancton en una zona de surgencia costera de Baja California. Cienc. Mar., 17: 21-37.

Hasle, G.R. – 1978. Using the inverted microscope. In: Sournia, A. (ed.), Phytoplankton Manual. pp. 191-196. UNESCO, Paris.

Hayward, T.L., T.R. Baumgartner, D.M. Checkley, R. Durazo, G. Gaxiola-Castro, K.D. Hyrenbach, A.W. Mantyla, M.M. Mullin, T. Murpheree, F.B. Schwing, P.E. Smith and M.J. Tegner. – 1999. The state of the California Current, 1998-1999: transition to cool-water conditions. Cal. Coop. Ocean. Fish. Inv. Rep., 40: 29-62.

Hernández-Becerril, D.U. – 1985. Abundancia y distribución del fitoplancton entre Punta Blanca y Punta Rosarito, B.C. en el verano de 1980. Inv. Mar. CICIMAR, 2: 59-69.

Hernández-Becerril, D.U. – 1988. Planktonic dinoflagellates (except Ceratium and Protoperidinium) from the Gulf of California and off the coasts of Baja California. Bot. Mar., 31: 423-435.

Hernández-Becerril, D.U. – 1989. Species of the dinoflagellate genus Ceratium (Dinophyceae) from the Gulf of California and coasts off Baja California, Mexico. Nova Hedw., 48: 33-54.

Hernández-Becerril, D.U. – 1995. Planktonic diatoms from the Gulf of California and coasts off Baja California: the genera Rhizosolenia, Proboscia, Pseudosolenia, and former Rhizosolenia species. Diatom Res., 10: 251-267.

Hernández-Becerril, D.U. – 1998. Species of the planktonic diatom Pseudo-nitzschia of the Pacific coasts of Mexico. Hydrobiologia, 379: 77-84. doi:10.1023/A:1003471828302

Hernández-Becerril, D.U. and M.I. Tapia-Peña. – 1995. Planktonic diatoms from the Gulf of California and coasts off Baja California: species of the genus Thalassiosira. Bot. Mar., 38: 543-555.

Hernández-Becerril, D.U., E. Bravo-Sierra and Y. Ramírez-Valdéz. – 2001. Coccolithophorids from the west coast of Baja California, Mexico. Hydrobiologia, 452: 31-45. doi:10.1023/A:1011961325093

Horner, R.A., B.M. Hickey and J.R. Postel. – 2000. Pseudonitzschia blooms and physical oceanography off Washington State, USA. South Afr. J. Mar. Sci., 22: 299-308.

Lange, C.B., F.M.H. Reid and M. Vernet. – 1994. Temporal distribution of the potentially toxic diatom Pseudonitzschia australis at a coastal site in Southern California. Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser., 104: 309-312. doi:10.3354/meps104309

Lange, C.B., A.L. Weinheimer, F.M.H. Reid, E. Tappa and R.C. Thunnel. – 2000. Response of siliceous microplankton from the Santa Barbara Basin to the 1997-98 El Niño event. Cal. Coop. Ocean. Fish. Inv. Rep., 41: 186-193.

Lavaniegos, B.E., L.C. Jiménez-Pérez and G. Gaxiola-Castro. – 2002. Plankton response to El Niño 1997-1998 and La Niña 1999 in the southern region of the California Current. Progr. Oceanogr., 54: 33-58. doi:10.1016/S0079-6611(02)00042-3

Lavaniegos, B.E., G. Gaxiola-Castro, L.C. Jiménez-Pérez, M.R. González-Esparza, T. Baumgartner and J. García-Córdoba. – 2003. 1997-98 El Niño effect on the pelagic ecosystem of the California current off Baja California, Mexico. Geofísica Int., 42: 483-494.

Lee, H.Y. and G.A. Fryxell. – 1996. Bicapitate Nitzschia species: Abundant nanoplankton in aggregates during November- December (1992) in the equatorial Pacific. J. Plankton Res., 18: 1271-1294. doi:10.1093/plankt/18.8.1271

Longhurst, A.R., C.J. Lorenzen and W.H. Thomas. – 1967. The role of pelagic crabs in the grazing of phytoplankton off Baja California. Ecology, 48: 190-200. doi:10.2307/1933100

Lynn, R.J., T. Baumgartner, J. García, C.A. Collins, T.L. Hayward, K.D. Hyrenbach, A.W. Mantyla, T. Murpheree, A. Shankle, F.B. Schwing, K.M. Sakuma and M.J. Tegner. – 1998. The state of the California Current, 1997-1998: transition to El Niño conditions. Cal. Coop. Ocean. Fish. Inv. Rep., 39: 25-49.

Malone, T.C. – 1971. The relative importance of nannoplankton and netplankton as primary producers in the California Current system. Fish. Bull., 69: 799-820.

Meave del Castillo, M.E., J.A. Aké-Castillo and S. Guerra- Martínez. – 2000. Dominancia de diatomeas del género Pseudonitzschia H. Peragallo en las costas de Baja California (Marzo 1999). Abstracts IX Congreso Nacional de Oceanografía. Huatulco, Oax., México, 22-26 May, 2000.

Medlin, L.K., G.L.A. Barker, M.E.M. Baumann, P.K. Hayes and M. Lange. – 1994. Molecular biology and systematics. In: J.C. Green and B.S.C. Leadbeater (eds.), The Haptophyte Algae, pp. 393-412. Claredon Press, Oxford.

Millán Núñez, E. and D.H. Loya Salinas. – 1993. Variación temporal del fitoplancton en una zona costera del noroeste de Baja California. Cienc. Mar., 19: 61-74.

Mullin, M.M. – 1998. Biomasses of large-celled phytoplankton and their relation to the nitracline and grazing in the California Current system off southern California, 1994-1996. Cal. Coop. Ocean. Fish. Inv. Rep., 39: 117-123.

Mullin, M.M. – 2000. Large-celled phytoplankton, the nitricline, and grazing during the California 1997-98 El Niño. Cal. Coop. Ocean. Fish. Inv. Rep., 41: 161-166.

Parrés Sierra, A., M. López and E.G. Pavía. – 1997. Oceanografía física del Océano Pacífico nororiental. In: Lavín, M.F. (ed.), Contribuciones a la Oceanografía Física en México. pp. 1-24. Unión Geofísica Mexicana Monographs 3, México.

Reid, F.M.H., E. Fuglister and J.B. Jordan. – 1970. Phytoplankton taxonomy and standing crop. In: Strickland, J.D.H. (ed.), The ecology of the plankton off La Jolla, California, in the period April through September, 1967, pp. 51-66. Bull. Scripps Inst. Oceanogr. 17, San Diego.

Smayda, T.J. – 1975. Net phytoplankton and the greater than 20 micron phytoplankton size fractions in upwelling waters off Baja California. Fish. Bull., 73: 38-50.

Trainer, V.L., N.G. Adams, B.D. Bill, C.M. Stehr, J.C. Wekell, P. Moeller, M. Busman and D. Woodruff. – 2000. Domoic acid production near California coastal upwelling zones, June 1998. Limnol. Oceanogr., 45: 1818-1833.

Trainer, V.L., N.G. Adams and J.C. Wekell. – 2001. Domoic-acid producing Pseudo-nitzschia species off the U.S. west coast associated with intoxication events. In: Hallegraeff, G.M., S.I. Blackburn, C.J. Bolch and R.J. Lewis (eds.), Harmful Algal Blooms Conference Proceedings. pp. 46-49. UNESCO, Paris.

Tyrell, T. and A. Merico. – 2004. Emiliania huxleyi: bloom observations and the conditions that induce them. In: Thierstein, H.R. and J.R. Young (eds.), Coccolithophores. From Molecular Processes to Global Impact. pp. 75-97. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Venrick, E.L. – 1998. Spring in the California Current: the distribution of phytoplankton species, April 1993 and April 1995. Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser., 167: 73-88. doi:10.3354/meps167073

Wang, D.P. and J.J. Walsh. – 1976. Objetive analysis of the upwelling ecosystem off Baja California. J. Mar. Res., 34: 43-60.

Winter, A., M. Elbrächter and G. Krause. – 1999. Subtropical coccolithophorids in the Weddell Sea. Deep-Sea Res. I, 46: 439-449. doi:10.1016/S0967-0637(98)00076-4

Young, J.R. and P. Westbroek, P. – 1991. Phenotypic variation in the coccolithophorid species Emiliania huxleyi. Mar. Micropaleontol., 18: 5-23. doi:10.1016/0377-8398(91)90004-P




How to Cite

Hernández-Becerril DU, Bravo-Sierra E, Aké-Castillo JA. Phytoplankton on the western coasts of Baja California in two different seasons in 1998. scimar [Internet]. 2007Dec.31 [cited 2022Aug.10];71(4):735-43. Available from: