Many coastal ecosystems are undergoing anthropogenic stress from large increases in population and urbanization. In many regions changes in freshwater and material inputs to the coastal zone are altering the biogeochemical and biological capacities of ecosystems. Despite increased watershed inputs, large tidal volumes and flushing indicative of macrotidal estuaries can modulate the fate of introduced materials masking some of the symptoms of eutrophication. The Land Use Coastal Ecosystem Study (LU-CES) examined linkages between land use and environmental properties of Malind and Okatee Creeks in South Carolina from 2001 to 2004. The objectives of this particular study were to assess the hydrography of the two macrotidal creek ecosystems, explore differences in dissolved oxygen (DO), and develop a better understanding of the variations in primary and benthic secondary production in southeastern creek ecosystems. Depth, pH, salinity, and DO were reduced and more variable in Malind Creek than in Okatee Creek, although both creeks had strong semidiurnal frequencies in salinity time signatures. While time series analyses of DO saturation in Malind Creek revealed a dominant semidiurnal pattern, Okatee Creek had a distinctly diel DO pattern. The strongly semidiurnal fluctuations in DO and reduced flushing time indicated that biological processes were not fast enough to influence DO in Malind Creek. The Okatee Creek system had a much greater storage volume, a wider marsh, and a dominant 25-h DO frequency. These attributes contributed to an estimated 8-10 times more phytoplankton-based carbon in Okatee Creek and twice the annual benthic production. As expected from their proximity to the upland, low surface area, and high organic content, both ecosystems were net heterotrophic. This fundamental understanding of tidal creek hydrography is being used to help define linkages among differential watershed land uses, flushing characteristics, and levels of biological production in coastal ecosystems of the southeastern United States. ?? 2007 Estuarine Research Federation.
Additional publication details
Hydrographic characterization of two tidal creeks with implications for watershed land use, flushing times, and benthic production