Hydrodynamic modeling and analysis of sea-level rise impacts on salinity for oyster growth in Apalachicola Bay, Florida

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In this study, a previously calibrated hydrodynamic model was applied to investigate the impacts of sea level rise on salinity variations and oyster growth in Apalachicola Bay. With available observed data (winds, tides, and river flow), a case study has been conducted for the period of June 10-July 9, 2005. In addition, sea level rise impacts under a range of river flow conditions have also been examined, which include minimum monthly flow, average monthly flow, and maximum monthly flow based on the flow data from 1977 to 2013. Referring to the case study conditions under the existing sea level, model simulations were conducted to examine salinity changes in the bay in response to the sea level rise scenarios of 0.31m, 0.5m and 1.0m. SLR-induced saline water intrusion mainly enters the estuary from the large opening in the east boundary. Based on the optimal salinity range for oyster growth (20-25 at Cat Point and 17-26 at Dry Bar) in Apalachicola Bay, SLR impacts were evaluated based on the model predicted salinity at Dry Bay and Cat Point. Results indicate that sea level rise results in stronger impacts on Cat Point than Dry Bar. Under the flow conditions of average monthly flow and the observed daily flow during June 10-July 9, mean salinity at Dry Bar varies within 21-24 in the optimal salinity range under 0.31m and 0.5m SLR conditions; and further increase above 26.0 when SLR is equal to 1.0m. Under the conditions of average monthly flow and the observed daily flow during June 10-July 9, the mean salinity at Cat Point is within the optimal range under existing sea level, and increases above the maximum optimal salinity of 27 under the SLR scenarios of 0.31m, 0.5m, and 1.0m, respectively. Extreme low and high flow conditions have also been investigated to examine the combined effects of flow and SLR. At the same sea level rise conditions, salinity under minimum flow is much higher than those under average flow, while salinity under maximum flow is much lower than those under the average flow condition.

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Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science





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