Quantifying the residence time and flushing characteristics of a shallow, back-barrier estuary : application of hydrodynamic and particle tracking models
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KeywordHydrodynamic modeling; Residence time; Particle tracking; Back-barrier estuaries; Eutrophication
Estuarine residence time is a major driver of eutrophication and water quality. Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor (BB-LEH), New Jersey, is a lagoonal back-barrier estuary that is subject to anthropogenic pressures including nutrient loading, eutrophication, and subsequent declines in water quality. A combination of hydrodynamic and particle tracking modeling was used to identify the mechanisms controlling flushing, residence time, and spatial variability of particle retention. The models demonstrated a pronounced northward subtidal flow from Little Egg Inlet in the south to Pt. Pleasant Canal in the north due to frictional effects in the inlets, leading to better flushing of the southern half of the estuary and particle retention in the northern estuary. Mean residence time for BB-LEH was 13 days but spatial variability was between ∼0 and 30 days depending on the initial particle location. Mean residence time with tidal forcing alone was 24 days (spatial variability between ∼0 and 50 days); the tides were relatively inefficient in flushing the northern end of the Bay. Scenarios with successive exclusion of physical processes from the models revealed that meteorological and remote offshore forcing were stronger drivers of exchange than riverine inflow. Investigations of water quality and eutrophication should take into account spatial variability in hydrodynamics and residence time in order to better quantify the roles of nutrient loading, production, and flushing.
This paper is not subject to U.S. copyright. The definitive version was published in Estuaries and Coasts 38 (2015): 1719-1734, doi:10.1007/s12237-014-9885-3.
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