The space–time dynamic of phytoplankton diversity and succession was investigated during the wane of a Phaeocystis globosa spring bloom in four distinct hydrological sub-systems of the eastern English Channel. Nutrients, chlorophyll-a concentrations, and phytoplankton composition, standing stocks, size spectra and diversity were monitored during three key periods in 2003: late spring, early summer and summer. Two consecutive diatom assemblages were observed, respectively dominated by: (i) small colonial species (<100 μm; Melosira sp., Diploneis sp. and Navicula transitans) in April; and (ii) large fine-walled cells (>200 μm; Guinardia striata and Rhizosolenia imbricata) in May and July. This shift in diatom composition appeared to be related to the potentially limitating silicic acid in early summer. Specific phytoplankton assemblages identified in distinct water masses have evolved from a mature/senescent community towards a relatively homogeneous aestival structure of dominant species that might have been triggered by the wane of the P. globosa bloom. Our results also identified a strong heterogeneity in the distribution of secondary species between distinct water masses during the summer period, suggesting that the magnitude of the observed patterns was intrinsically related to the hydrological properties prevailing in each sub-system. The identification of distinct temporal patterns in phytoplankton species diversity and succession following the wane of a spring bloom at relatively small spatial scales (i.e. <10 km) is discussed in the framework of P. globosa blooms in particular and phytoplankton blooms in general and is suggested to have potentially strong consequences on food web dynamics and the carbon cycle in coastal ecosystems.