Although surface water quality and its underlying processes vary over time scales ranging from seconds to decades, they have historically been studied at the lower (weekly to interannual) frequencies. The aim of this study was to investigate intradaily variability of three water quality parameters in a small freshwater tidal lagoon (Mildred Island, California). High frequency time series of specific conductivity, water temperature, and chlorophyll a at two locations within the habitat were analyzed in conjunction with supporting hydrodynamic, meteorological, biological, and spatial mapping data. All three constituents exhibited large amplitude intradaily (e.g., semidiurnal tidal and diurnal) oscillations, and periodicity varied across constituents, space, and time. Like other tidal embayments, this habitat is influenced by several processes with distinct periodicities including physical controls, such as tides, solar radiation, and wind, and biological controls, such as photosynthesis, growth, and grazing. A scaling approach was developed to estimate individual process contributions to the observed variability. Scaling results were generally consistent with observations and together with detailed examination of time series and time derivatives, revealed specific mechanisms underlying the observed periodicities, including interactions between the tidal variability, heating, wind, and biology. The implications for monitoring were illustrated through subsampling of the data set. This exercise demonstrated how quantities needed by scientists and managers (e.g., mean or extreme concentrations) may be misrepresented by low frequency data and how short-duration high frequency measurements can aid in the design and interpretation of temporally coarser sampling programs. The dispersive export of chlorophyll a from the habitat exhibited a fortnightly variability corresponding to the modulation of semidiurnal tidal currents with the diurnal cycle of phytoplankton variability, demonstrating how high frequency interactions can govern long-term trends. Process identification, as through the scaling analysis here, can help us anticipate changes in system behavior and adapt our own interactions with the system. ?? 2006 Estuarine Research Federation.
Additional publication details
Intradaily variability of water quality in a shallow tidal lagoon: Mechanisms and implications