Effects of freshwater flow extremes on intertidal biota of a wet-dry tropical estuary.
Embargoed until: 2019-04-15
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Freshwater flow into estuaries during periods of high rainfall is considered to enhance the biomass of primary producers, with positive effects propagating to higher trophic groups. We examined the effect of flow on chlorophyll a (chl a) concentrations and meiofaunal abundance on the intertidal mudflats in a wet-dry tropical estuary in the Norman River, northern Australia. Meiofaunal density and sediment chl a concentrations (microphytobenthos) were significantly reduced during 2 consecutive wet season floods (the first, a major flood; the second, minor). Additionally, a short-term study of primary productivity on the mudflats during the minor flood measured rates below detection limits. The effects of salinity and burial by sediment on chl a concentrations and meiofaunal abundance were examined experimentally. Both the sudden and prolonged changes in salinity and sediment movement, and subsequent sedimentation as a result of wet season floods were the likely causes of the reduced meiofaunal density, chl a concentrations and benthic primary production. In the short term, large floods in the wet-dry tropics appear to act more as a disturbance event than a subsidy for benthic estuarine biota, and any positive effects of the flood may not occur until flooding eases. Additionally, we propose that there is a transitional period between the typical wet and dry seasons in the wet-dry tropics, during which flood waters are dissipating and the initial impact of the flood has abated, and there are positive effects on meiofauna and microphytobenthos biomass.
Marine Ecology Progress Series
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