State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2011GA289B
Title: Impact of Upstream Water Use on Salinity and Ecology of Apalachicola Bay
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2012
End Date: 2/29/2013
Congressional District: 5th
Focus Categories: Surface Water, Water Quality, Hydrology
Keywords: Salinity; Ecology; Hydrology; Estuarine
Principal Investigators: Roberts, Philip (Georgia Institue of Technology); Roberts, Philip (Georgia Institue of Technology)
Federal Funds: $ 38,000
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 76,000
Abstract: A three-dimensional model of Apalachicola Bay, Florida, has been developed and calibrated and validated by comparisons to measured water levels and salinity in the bay. It was then ran for a three year period using measured hydrological and other inputs to perform preliminary assessments of the effect of river flow on salinity and the ecology of the bay. Statistical properties of salinity that are relevant to the ecology of the bay, especially oysters, were generated. The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) river basin system terminates in Apalachicola Bay which is the most important ecosystem in the ACF. It produces 90% of the state's oyster harvest, and the third largest shrimp catch. Salinity changes as a result of different management strategies in the ACF can have profound effects on the bay's ecology. These effects are presently not well quantified or understood, however. The bay's hydrodynamics are complex, and driven by time-varying tides, winds, and freshwater inflows. Although shallow, the bay is vertically stratified, and the salinity varies significantly in the horizontal and vertical directions and also temporally. In this phase of the project, we will couple the hydrodynamic model to the ACF Decision Support System (DSS) model to generate inflow sequences for various river management strategies. We will use the results to develop general relationships between salinity and freshwater flow. We will also run scenarios to address the effects of climate change, through changes in sea level and hydrology, on the bay. The project will help develop a comprehensive understanding of the linkages between river hydrology, estuarine salinity, and ecology that is critical for the development of a sound instream flow policy for ecosystem protection and sustainability.

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