In this article, we describe the use of diagnostic timescales as simple tools for illuminating how aquatic ecosystems work, with a focus on coastal systems such as estuaries, lagoons, tidal rivers, reefs, deltas, gulfs, and continental shelves. Intending this as a tutorial as well as a review, we discuss relevant fundamental concepts (e.g., Lagrangian and Eulerian perspectives and methods, parcels, particles, and tracers), and describe many of the most commonly used diagnostic timescales and definitions. Citing field-based, model-based, and simple algebraic methods, we describe how physical timescales (e.g., residence time, flushing time, age, transit time) and biogeochemical timescales (e.g., for growth, decay, uptake, turnover, or consumption) are estimated and implemented (sometimes together) to illuminate coupled physical-biogeochemical systems. Multiple application examples are then provided to demonstrate how timescales have proven useful in simplifying, understanding, and modeling complex coastal aquatic systems. We discuss timescales from the perspective of “holism”, the degree of process richness incorporated into them, and the value of clarity in defining timescales used and in describing how they were estimated. Our objective is to provide context, new applications and methodological ideas and, for those new to timescale methods, a starting place for implementing them in their own work.
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Timescale methods for simplifying, understanding and modeling biophysical and water quality processes in coastal aquatic ecosystems: A review|
|Contributing office(s)||WMA - Integrated Modeling and Prediction Division|
|Description||2717, 65 p.|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|