Evaluation of the flushing rates of Apalachicola Bay, Florida via natural geochemical tracers
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We used naturally occurring radium isotopes as tracers of water exchange in Apalachicola Bay, a shallow coastal-plain estuary in northwestern Florida. The bay receives fresh water and radium from the Apalachicola River, and mixes with Gulf of Mexico waters through four inlets. We deployed moored buoys with attached Mn-fibers at several stations throughout the estuary during two summer and two winter periods. After deployment for at least one tidal cycle we measured the ratio of the two short-lived radium isotopes 223Ra (half-life = 11 d) and 224Ra (3.6 d) to estimate “radium ages” of the water in the bay. During our four seasonal deployments the river discharge ranged from 338 to 1016 m3 s- 1. According to our calculations the water turnover time in the bay during these samplings ranged from 6 to 12 days. Age contours in the bay showed that winds and tides as well as river discharge influence the water movement and the residence time of freshwater in the bay. We also calculated the mean age of river water in the bay which was between 5 to 9 days during the studied periods. We suggest that this approach can be used to quantify transport processes of dissolved substances in the bay. For example, soluble nutrient or pollutant transport rates from a point source could be examined. We conclude that the radium age technique is well suited for flushing rate calculations in river dominated shallow estuaries.
Author Posting. © Elsevier B.V., 2007. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Elsevier B.V. for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Marine Chemistry 109 (2008): 395-408, doi:10.1016/j.marchem.2007.09.001.