Quantifying the residence time and flushing characteristics of a shallow, back-barrier estuary: Application of hydrodynamic and particle tracking models

Estuaries and Coasts
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Abstract

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.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Quantifying the residence time and flushing characteristics of a shallow, back-barrier estuary: Application of hydrodynamic and particle tracking models
Series title Estuaries and Coasts
DOI 10.1007/s12237-014-9885-3
Volume 38
Issue 5
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 16 p.
First page 1719
Last page 1734