Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2011GA289B

Impact of Upstream Water Use on Salinity and Ecology of Apalachicola Bay

Institute: Georgia
Year Established: 2011 Start Date: 2011-03-01 End Date: 2013-03-01
Total Federal Funds: $58,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $116,000

Principal Investigators: Philip Roberts, Philip Roberts

Abstract: A three-dimensional model of Apalachicola Bay, Florida, will be developed and applied to assess the effect of river management strategies on salinity and the ecology of the bay. 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. After calibrating and verifying the model against measured water levels and salinities, it will be coupled to the ACF Decision Support System (DSS) model which will generate inflow sequences for the hydrodynamic salinity model. 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.