River regulation alters drivers of primary productivity along a tropical river-estuary system
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Worldwide, rivers continue to be dammed to supply water for humans. The resulting regulation of downstream flow impacts on biogeochemical and physical processes, potentially affecting river and estuarine productivity. Our study tested the hypothesis that primary production in the downstream freshwater reaches of a dammed river was less limited by light and nutrients relative to downstream estuarine primary production. In a tropical dryland Australian river estuary, we found that water-column primary productivity was highest at freshwater sites that had lowest light attenuation. Nitrogen may also have limited primary productivity. Below the freshwater zone was a region of macrotidal mixing with high concentrations of suspended soil particles, nutrients and chlorophyll a, and lower but variable primary productivity rates. Light controlled productivity, but the algal cells may also have been osmotically stressed due to increasing salinity. Further downstream in the estuary, primary productivity was lower than the freshwater reaches and light and nutrient availability appear to be a factor. Therefore the reduced magnitude of peak-flow events due to flow regulation, and the resulting decrease in nutrient export, is likely to be negatively impacting estuarine primary production. This has implications for future development of dams where rivers have highly seasonal flow.
Marine & Freshwater Research: advances in the aquatic sciences
© 2011 CSIRO. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.