A coupled biological and physical model was applied to study the influence of river discharge on biological variability on the Louisiana-Texas (LATEX) continental shelf. The physical part included a primitive-equation turbulent closure model, and the biological part was a simple phytoplankton (P), zooplankton (Z), and nutrient (N) model. The model was forced by freshwater discharge from the river and ran prognostically under initial conditions of springtime water stratification and a steady-state solution of the P-Z-N model with no horizontal dependence. A nutrient source was included at the mouth of the river. The model predicted a well-defined density frontal zone on the inner shelf. The biological field showed a region of high phytoplankton biomass in the whole water column near the coast and a moderately high biomass patch in the upper 10 m at the outer edge of the frontal zone. A high concentration dome of nutrients was found near the bottom within the frontal zone. New production of nutrients was high throughout the whole water column near the coast and in the upper 10 m at the outer edge of the density front, but lower in the frontal zone. The model results were in reasonable agreement with observational data taken from a May 1993 interdisciplinary survey on the LATEX shelf. Cross-shelf distribution of biological production varied significantly with direction of wind stress but not with the diurnal tide. The model results suggested that the bottom-rich nutrient distribution within the frontal zone was caused by the interaction of physical and biological processes. Physical processes caused the formation of an area of high nutrient concentration in the weak current region within the frontal zone. Subsequent biological processes limited the increase of nutrients in the upper euphotic zone and hence led to the bottom-rich nutrient pattern.
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