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Flood discharges of a small river into open coastal waters: Plume traits and material fate


Gaston, TF and Schlacher, TA and Connolly, RM, Flood discharges of a small river into open coastal waters: Plume traits and material fate, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 69, (1-2) pp. 4-9. ISSN 0272-7714 (2006) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2006.03.015


The dynamics of plumes from large rivers are relatively well known. Many estuaries are small, however, and discharge directly onto exposed, open shorelines and presumably produce smaller plumes that may have different properties. Therefore this study measured traits of a small estuary on the Australian East Coast as a model system, focusing on (a) plume size, (b) distinctness of plume edges, and (c) imprints on the seafloor. Although plumes were found to be limited in spatial extent (ca. 1 km offshore 2.4 km longshore) and were constrained near the shore by onshore winds, they exported high nutrient loads from an urbanised watershed. The small plumes were shallow (<2 m) and strongly buoyant, with sharp vertical and horizontal clines similar to much larger plumes. The edges of the plumes were highly distinct, clearly separating disparate water masses that trapped significantly higher amounts of nutrients inside the plume. Some particulate material exported from the estuary in the plumes reached the benthos of the nearshore zone, as evidenced by increases in copper concentrations in sediments under the plume. By contrast, the amount of land-sourced carbon delivered by small plumes to the seafloor was minor in comparison to larger inputs from marine sources (e.g. onshore advection of phytoplankton blooms or algae dislodged from reefs) that swamped any contribution from plumes. Overall, small plumes can be important in land-ocean coupling, but their zone of influence may be limited.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Pollution and contamination
Research Field:Pollution and contamination not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Gaston, TF (Dr Troy Gaston)
ID Code:63069
Year Published:2006
Web of Science® Times Cited:44
Deposited By:NC Marine Conservation and Resource Sustainability
Deposited On:2010-04-13
Last Modified:2010-05-04

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