Seasonal distribution of nutrients and primary productivity on the eastern continental shelf of Venezuela as influenced by the Orinoco River Academic Article uri icon


  • Nitrogenous nutrients, dissolved silicate, and salinity were measured in surface waters and shallow hydrocasts along similar cruise tracks during the spring (dry season) and fall (wet season) of 1988. Both cruises transected the eastern Caribbean, transited the Gulf of Paria, ran parallel to the Orinoco Delta and into the main channel of the Orinoco River. Trends in primary productivity were also measured by daily carbon 14 incubations. In both seasons, samples covered the range from highly oligotrophic and transparent to highly productive and rich in biogenic and abiogenic particulate matter. Most of the Orinoco outflow appears to turn N to NW and remains in shallow waters off Venezuela and surrounding Trinidad, permitting benthic regeneration of river-borne nutrients. However, the role of the Orinoco and associated low-salinity coastal waters in fertilizing large areas of the eastern Caribbean basin, as suggested by satellite imagery, can be approximated crudely from the nutrient composition at Boca de Dragon, which is representative of the nutrient status of these waters as they flow into deeper Caribbean waters. Additional nutrients may be supplied to the area primarily from Amazon-derived water entering the Caribbean Basin further north, with some coastal upwelling along the continental shelf in the dry season.

publication date

  • February 15, 1993