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Implications of estuarine transport for water quality

July 6, 2010

In this chapter, some implications of estuarine transport for water quality are discussed. This is not an exhaustive review of all physical processes potentially important to water quality in estuaries. Rather, the focus is on (1) some fundamental relationships, concepts, and helpful idealizations (e.g., evolution equations for reactive scalars, transport time scales, scaling and non-dimensional numbers), (2) some common and often dominant physical processes in terms of their influence on estuarine water quality (e.g., stratification and turbulent mixing), and (3) some less prevalently discussed but probably widely important issues regarding high-frequency (i.e., intradaily) processes and their influence on water quality.

Here, “water quality” refers to the full range of suspended constituents (or “scalars”, i.e., non-vector quantities) in an estuarine water column. These constituents may be dissolved or particulate, mineral, chemical, or biological, or they may represent physical properties of the water (e.g., temperature). The spatial distribution of a water quality constituent is influenced by the hydrodynamic environment in which it is suspended, but it may be additionally subject to motility, positive buoyancy, or negative buoyancy (e.g., some phytoplankton or zooplankton). Water quality scalars may be conservative (i.e., non-reactive, such as salt) or non-conservative (i.e., reactive and thereby potentially changing in concentration or form during transit; e.g., nitrogen, phosphorus, or phytoplankton). Hydrodynamic and transport processes are important not only because they “move stuff around” but also because, in the case of reactive scalars, those processes may expose the scalars to a range of environments, each of which may be associated with distinct rates of scalar transformation.

Publication Year 2010
Title Implications of estuarine transport for water quality
DOI 10.1017/CBO9780511676567.011
Authors Lisa Lucas
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70236422
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse