Impacts of droughts and low flows on estuarine water quality and benthic fauna

Date

2015-02-20

Authors

Palmer, Terence A.
Montagna, Paul A.

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Hydrobiologia

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Abstract

The effects of droughts on benthic infaunal communities and three epifaunal species were determined in three semi-arid central Texas estuaries with different inflow dynamics and consequent salinity regimes: the Nueces, Lavaca-Colorado, and Guadalupe Estuaries. Periods (months or years) were considered to be in drought if mean salinities were in the upper quartile of historic salinities. This drought classification method was verified by comparing the Palmer Drought Severity Index of the catchments with the drought classifications within each estuary. Droughts have demonstrable effects on estuary water column condition, notably decreases in turbidity, nutrient concentrations, and chlorophyll concentrations. Droughts do not appear to be important drivers of infaunal communities in estuarine regions with normally high salinities (25–32) although they coincide with increased diversity and changes in community composition in estuarine regions that have lower salinities (10–19). Droughts cause decreases in Litopenaeus setiferus (white shrimp) and Callinectes sapidis (blue crab) abundances and spatial extents. This indicates that droughts, especially when combined with water diversions, may negatively affect primary and secondary productions in other semi-arid estuaries of the world.

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Palmer, T.A. and P.A. Montagna. 2015. Impacts of droughts and low flows on estuarine water quality and benthic fauna. Hydrobiologia 753:111–129. doi 10.1007/s10750-015-2200-x

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