Effect of Temporarily Opening and Closing the Marine Connection of a River Estuary




Montagna, Paul A.
Palmer, Terence A.
Pollack, Jennifer Beseres


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Estuaries and Coasts



The lower Rio Grande is a river-dominated estuary that serves as the border between Texas, USA, and Tamaulipas, Mexico. River estuaries encompass the section of the river influenced by tidal exchange with the Gulf of Mexico, but the connection with the Rio Grande is intermittent and can be temporarily open or closed. During the 4.8-year study period, the river mouth was closed 30% of the time, mostly during average or dry climatic conditions, with the temporary closing of the river mouth being linked to hydrology. When the Rio Grande estuary is closed, salinity is low (1.5 psu compared to 4.8 psu when open), nitrate plus nitrite are low (4.4 μM compared to 31.5 μM when open), and ammonium is high (9.6 μM compared to 4.3 μM when open), but chlorophyll is similar (20 μg/L compared to 21 μg/L when open). Benthic macrofaunal abundance and biomass are higher when the river mouth is closed: 16,700 individuals m−2 and 3.3 g m−2 compared to 8800 individuals m−2 and 2.4 g m−2 when the Rio Grande river mouth is open. Benthic macrofaunal community structure is divided into two groups: chironomid larvae and Oligochaeta dominated when the river mouth was closed, whereas polychaetes Mediomastus ambiseta and Streblospio benedicti dominated when the river mouth was open. The implications of these results for managing freshwater flows are that the open and closed conditions each have a characteristic benthic macrofaunal community that is strongly influenced by system hydrology.






Montagna, P.A., T.A. Palmer, J. Beseres Pollack. 2023. Effect of temporarily opening and closing the marine connection of a river estuary. Estuaries and Coasts https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-022-01159-6, available online 22 December 2022