Abstract

The objective of this study was to document the effects of extreme wind and rainfall conditions associated with tropical storms on physiochemical variability in a tidal creek, Pellicer Creek, in northeast Florida. High-frequency salinity and meteorological data from the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve were examined at a range of temporal scales, from 30-minute to annual intervals. Monthly measures of nutrient and water clarity parameters were compared to salinity variations. It was hypothesized that the four tropical storms impacting the region in 2004 (i.e., Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne) altered tidal regimes and watershed inputs to Pellicer Creek sufficiently to generate water column conditions that deviated significantly from nonstorm periods. The four tropical systems of 2004 suppressed tidally induced salinity variations. Strong northeasterly winds associated with the storm events initially prompted salinity spikes. However, high rainfall levels during the course of each event ultimately caused strong declines in salinity for extended periods of time. Nitrogen concentrations in Pellicer Creek were significantly elevated after storm events. Because primary production in many of the coastal environments along the east coast of Florida, as well as around the world, is nitrogen limited, increases in nitrogen input represent a potential for enhanced algal production and biomass. Given the major changes in watershed characteristics and global climate patterns expected in future years, the ability to predict the influences of these changes on the estuarine environment will be an essential part of designing, implementing, and justifying management efforts.

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