This study aimed to analyze the impacts of nutrients and related aquatic factors on changes in the Noctiluca population of the Tha Chin estuary, a nutrient-rich estuary located in the inner Gulf of Thailand. Field surveys were carried out at 30 stations during November 2009 to August 2010. The results indicated high levels of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN; 13.89–46.99 μmol/L) and PO43−-P (0.20–3.05 μmol/L) where the Noctiluca red tide occurred, particularly during the high-loading period. Dense populations were usually found in the outer part of the estuary with comparatively high salinity (25–29 psu). The highest Noctiluca density was 72,333 cells L−1 and the cell diameters ranged between 360 and 460 μm. Proportions of small-sized cells (Ps; less than 300 μm) varied over time. In this study, Ps showed a positive correlation with levels of PO43−-P, while the total population density was significantly affected by levels of NH4+-N and DIN (p < 0.05). Overall, PO43−-P influenced the development of the Noctiluca red tide, with the limitation of PO43−-P levels to below 1 μmol/L suggested for controlling Noctiluca red tide outbreaks at their origin. To support environmental conservation and maintain sustainable production in the estuary, the levels of PO43−-P should be considered for the further effective development of water quality standards in estuarine zones.

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