Effects of seasonal stratification on turbulent mixing in a hypereutrophic coastal lagoon

Cousins, Mary, Mark T. Stacey, Jeana L. Drake

Limnol. Oceanogr., 55(1), 2010, 172-186 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2010.55.1.0172

ABSTRACT: Seasonal variations in vertical turbulent mixing rates, density structure, inorganic nutrient concentrations, and phytoplankton biomass were investigated in a shallow, tidally choked coastal lagoon. The project site, Rodeo Lagoon, is located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California, and has experienced intense blooms of the cyanobacteria Nodularia spumigena and Microcystis aeruginosa in recent years. Monthly measurements collected along a transect of the lagoon from March 2006 to April 2008 show it is strongly stratified by brackish water in winter, when freshwater inputs from the watershed and saltwater inputs from storm surge are both at their highest. The squared buoyancy frequency exceeds 0.5 s-2 under these conditions. In summer, weaker diurnal temperature stratification is the result of strong light absorption characteristics in this hypereutrophic lagoon. Wind is the dominant driver of turbulent mixing. Although water depths of less than 2.5 m lead to the expectation of rapid vertical mixing, limited fetch and strong density gradients reduce the coupling of wind stress and bottom stress. The vertical turbulent diffusivity is reduced by as much as three orders of magnitude across the pycnocline, and the water column in and below the pycnocline shows active turbulence only intermittently. The annual cycle of salt-based stratification and accompanying reduction in turbulent exchange of nutrients between the sediments and overlying water column inhibit the flushing of nutrients out of the lagoon and contribute to excessive phytoplankton biomass.

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