Modelling Holocene analogues of coastal plain estuaries reveals the magnitude of sea-level threat.
ABSTRACT: Hydrodynamic modelling of Australia's lower Murray River demonstrates the response of a large coastal plain estuary to the mid-Holocene (7,000-6,000 yr BP) sea-level highstand. The approximately two metre higher-than-present sea level during the highstand forced the estuarine limit upstream generating an extensive central basin environment extending more than 200 kilometres from the river mouth (143 kilometres upstream of the modern tidal limit). The geomorphic history of the region does not conform to conventional estuarine facies models as, for much of the Holocene, the lower Murray River acted as a landward, gorge-confined extension of the Murray estuary. The incredibly low relief of this coastal plain system drove significant saline incursion and limited current velocities across the estuary facilitating deposition of a laminated silt-clay sequence which our results suggest may be regionally extensive. Variations to discharge, barrier morphology, or the estuary's bathymetry result in minimal change to the estuarine palaeo-environment. The shift to the present-day fresher water distribution in the Murray estuary requires a fall in sea level to present-day conditions. The dominance of sea level as the controlling factor on this estuarine palaeo-environment highlights the significant potential impact of climate change induced sea-level rise to coastal plain estuaries.
Project description:Three-dimensional numerical modelling of the marine and fluvial dynamics of the lower Murray River demonstrate that the mid-Holocene sea-level highstand generated an extensive central basin environment extending at least 140 kilometres upstream from the river mouth and occupying the entire one to three kilometre width of the Murray Gorge. This unusually extensive, extremely low-gradient backwater environment generated by the two metre sea-level highstand captured most, if not all, of the fine-grained sediment discharged from the 1.06 million square kilometre Murray-Darling catchment. This material was sequestered within a >60 kilometre long, >10 metre thick valley-wide deposit of finely laminated mud. This previously unrecognised sediment trap persisted from 8,518 to 5,067?cal?yr BP preventing sediment delivery to the marine environment. Its identification requires that mid-Holocene climate reconstructions for southeastern Australia based on fluctuations in the delivery of fine-grained sediment to the ocean offshore the lower Murray River's mouth must be re-evaluated.
Project description:The long-term morphodynamic evolution of estuaries depends on a combination of antecedent topography and boundary conditions, including fluvial input, sea-level change and regional-landscape interactions. Identifying effects of such boundary conditions on estuary evolution is important to anticipate future changes in specific boundary conditions and for hindcasting with numerical and physical models. A comprehensive synthesis of the evolution of the former Old Rhine estuary is presented here, together with its boundary conditions over its full lifespan from 6,500 to 1,000 cal. yr bp. This system formed during a period of sea-level high stand, during which the estuary served as the main River Rhine outlet. The estuary went through three stages of evolution: a maturation phase in a wide infilling back-barrier basin, a stable mature phase and an abandoning phase, both in a laterally confined setting. The Old Rhine River formed by a river avulsion around 6,500 cal. yr bp that connected to a tidal channel within a large back-barrier basin. Decelerating sea-level rise caused the back-barrier basin to silt up around 5,700 cal. yr bp, resulting in shoreline progradation by beach-barrier formation until ?2,000 cal. yr bp. Beach-barrier formation along the coast and natural levee formation along the river triggered peat formation in the coastal plain, laterally constraining the estuary and limiting overbank deposition, which caused most sediment to accumulate offshore. The abandoning phase started around 2,200 cal. yr bp when a series of upstream avulsions led to a substantial reduction in fluvial input. This induced a period of enhanced estuarine overbank clay deposition that continued into near-complete silting up and estuary closure around 1200 ad. These findings exemplify how tidal systems, formed in wide coastal plains during sea-level high stand, depend on antecedent conditions, and how they respond to connection and disconnection of a large river over long, millennial timescales.
Project description:The Columbia River estuary is a dynamic system in which estuarine turbidity maxima trap and extend the residence time of particles and particle-attached bacteria over those of the water and free-living bacteria. Particle-attached bacteria dominate bacterial activity in the estuary and are an important part of the estuarine food web. PCR-amplified 16S rRNA genes from particle-attached and free-living bacteria in the Columbia River, its estuary, and the adjacent coastal ocean were cloned, and 239 partial sequences were determined. A wide diversity was observed at the species level within at least six different bacterial phyla, including most subphyla of the class Proteobacteria. In the estuary, most particle-attached bacterial clones (75%) were related to members of the genus Cytophaga or of the alpha, gamma, or delta subclass of the class Proteobacteria. These same clones, however, were rare in or absent from either the particle-attached or the free-living bacterial communities of the river and the coastal ocean. In contrast, about half (48%) of the free-living estuarine bacterial clones were similar to clones from the river or the coastal ocean. These free-living bacteria were related to groups of cosmopolitan freshwater bacteria (beta-proteobacteria, gram-positive bacteria, and Verrucomicrobium spp.) and groups of marine organisms (gram-positive bacteria and alpha-proteobacteria [SAR11 and Rhodobacter spp.]). These results suggest that rapidly growing particle-attached bacteria develop into a uniquely adapted estuarine community and that free-living estuarine bacteria are similar to members of the river and the coastal ocean microbial communities. The high degree of diversity in the estuary is the result of the mixing of bacterial communities from the river, estuary, and coastal ocean.
Project description:Estuaries on wave-dominated coasts generally comprise three sedimentary environments: fluvial sands and gravels derived from the catchment; marine sands characteristic of the beaches and nearshore; and silts and clays that accumulate in the sheltered central basin. Estuarine transition to deltaic form occurs when geomorphological maturity is achieved during coastal evolution. Sedimentary plains become infilled and a narrow channel connects the catchment and facilitates the transport of fluvial sediments to the coast. Here, we present modern sedimentary data that supports the idea that the wave-dominated Shoalhaven system in southeastern Australia has transitioned from an estuary to delta, transporting fluvial sediments to the modern adjacent beach and contributing to coastal progradation. A total of 141 bed channel and swash zone samples were collected from the estuarine channel of the Shoalhaven River and the adjacent Comerong Island and Seven Mile Beach, respectively. Surficial sediments were subject to grain size analysis, whereas random quartz grains from selected samples were used to indicate a qualitative degree of weathering using a scan electron microscopy (SEM). Additionally, selected samples were examined for mineralogical composition using x-ray diffraction (XRD) to provide understanding of sediment transport and provenance. The dataset, one of the most comprehensive modern sedimentary coastal records in Australia, can be used to understand the sediment dynamics and support a diverse range of coastal management decisions. The experiment design and analyses also serve as a model that can be replicated elsewhere to better understand fluvial delivery of sediments to the coast. The dataset and analyses presented here support the research article entitled "Evolution from estuary to delta: alluvial plain morphology and sedimentary characteristics of the Shoalhaven River mouth, southeastern Australia" , to which readers should refer to for interpretation.
Project description:An increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme events is predicted to occur as a result of climate change. In coastal ecosystems, hurricanes and flooding can cause dramatic changes in water quality resulting in large mortality events in estuarine fauna. Facultative migration behaviors represent a key adaptation by which animals can evacuate ecological catastrophes, but remain poorly studied in marine systems. Here we identify coastal evacuations by otherwise resident riverine striped bass in the Hudson River Estuary, New York, USA, caused by an intense period of tropical storms in autumn 2011. These storms produced record rainfall and high water discharges into the Hudson River Estuary that increased the water level and reduced the water temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen levels. Striped bass moved out of the estuary, exhibiting novel migration behaviours, that may have been in response to the strong flow and unsuitable conditions. In the months following the storms, some fish demonstrated exploratory trips back to the estuary, which may have been to assess the conditions before returning for the remainder of the winter. Behavioural adaptions to weather events by striped bass and other coastal fishes will depend on maintenance of key population segments and unimpeded evacuation routes.
Project description:Using a novel combination of palaeohabitat modelling and genetic mixture analyses, we identify and assess a sea-level-driven recolonization process following the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Our palaeohabitat modelling reveals dramatic changes in estuarine habitat distribution along the coast of California (USA) and Baja California (Mexico). At the LGM (approx. 20 kya), when sea level was approximately 130 m lower, the palaeo-shoreline was too steep for tidal estuarine habitat formation, eliminating this habitat type from regions where it is currently most abundant, and limiting such estuaries to a northern and a southern refugium separated by 1000 km. We assess the recolonization of estuaries formed during post-LGM sea-level rise through examination of refugium-associated alleles and approximate Bayesian computation in three species of estuarine fishes. Results reveal sourcing of modern populations from both refugia, which admix in the newly formed habitat between the refuges. We infer a dramatic peak in habitat area between 15 and 10 kya with subsequent decline. Overall, this approach revealed a previously undocumented dynamic and integrated relationship between sea-level change, coastal processes and population genetics. These results extend glacial refugial dynamics to unglaciated subtropical coasts and have significant implications for biotic response to predicted sea-level rise.
Project description:Picophytoplankton (PicoP) are increasingly recognized as significant contributors to primary productivity and phytoplankton biomass in coastal and estuarine systems. Remarkably though, PicoP composition is unknown or not well-resolved in several large estuaries including the semi-lagoonal Neuse River Estuary (NRE), a tributary of the second largest estuary-system in the lower USA, the Pamlico-Albemarle Sound. The NRE is impacted by extreme weather events, including recent increases in precipitation and flooding associated with tropical cyclones. Here we examined the impacts of moderate to extreme (Hurricane Florence, September 2018) precipitation events on NRE PicoP abundances and composition using flow cytometry, over a 1.5 year period. Phycocyanin-rich Synechococcus-like cells were the most dominant PicoP, reaching?~?106 cells mL?1, which highlights their importance as key primary producers in this relatively long residence-time estuary. Ephemeral “blooms” of picoeukaryotic phytoplankton (PEUK) during spring and after spikes in river flow were also detected, making PEUK periodically major contributors to PicoP biomass (up to?~?80%). About half of the variation in PicoP abundance was explained by measured environmental variables. Temperature explained the most variation (24.5%). Change in total dissolved nitrogen concentration, an indication of increased river discharge, explained the second-most variation in PicoP abundance (15.9%). The short-term impacts of extreme river discharge from Hurricane Florence were particularly evident as PicoP biomass was reduced by?~?100-fold for more than 2 weeks. We conclude that precipitation is a highly influential factor on estuarine PicoP biomass and composition, and show how ‘wetter’ future climate conditions will have ecosystem impacts down to the smallest of phytoplankton.
Project description:Shifts in bacterioplankton community composition along the salinity gradient of the Parker River estuary and Plum Island Sound, in northeastern Massachusetts, were related to residence time and bacterial community doubling time in spring, summer, and fall seasons. Bacterial community composition was characterized with denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of PCR-amplified 16S ribosomal DNA. Average community doubling time was calculated from bacterial production ([(14)C]leucine incorporation) and bacterial abundance (direct counts). Freshwater and marine populations advected into the estuary represented a large fraction of the bacterioplankton community in all seasons. However, a unique estuarine community formed at intermediate salinities in summer and fall, when average doubling time was much shorter than water residence time, but not in spring, when doubling time was similar to residence time. Sequencing of DNA in DGGE bands demonstrated that most bands represented single phylotypes and that matching bands from different samples represented identical phylotypes. Most river and coastal ocean bacterioplankton were members of common freshwater and marine phylogenetic clusters within the phyla Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and ACTINOBACTERIA: Estuarine bacterioplankton also belonged to these phyla but were related to clones and isolates from several different environments, including marine water columns, freshwater sediments, and soil.
Project description:Five pterosaur localities are currently known from the Late Cretaceous in the northeastern Aral Sea region of Kazakhstan. Of these, one is Turonian-Coniacian in age, the Zhirkindek Formation (Tyulkili), and four are Santonian in age, all from the early Campanian Bostobe Formation (Baibishe, Akkurgan, Buroinak, and Shakh Shakh). All so far collected and identifiable Late Cretaceous pterosaur bones from Kazakhstan likely belong to Azhdarchidae: Azhdarcho sp. (Tyulkili); Aralazhdarchobostobensis (Shakh Shakh); and Samrukianessovi (Akkurgan). These latter two taxa, both from the Bostobe Formation might be synonyms. Azhdarcho sp. from the Zhirkindek Formation lived in a tropical-to-subtropical relatively humid climate on the shore of an estuarine basin connected to the Turgai Sea. Known fossils were collected in association with brackish-water bivalves and so the overall paleoenvironment of this pterosaur was likely an estuarine marsh as indicated by the dominance of conifers and low relative counts of ferns and angiosperms. Aralazhdarchobostobensis, from the Bostobe Formation, lived on a coastal fluvial plain along the Turgai Sea. This paleoenvironment was either floodplain (Akkurgan, Buroinak, and Shakh Shakh) or estuarine (Baibishe). In the Santonian - early Campanian, shallow waters near this coastal plain were sites for the intensive accumulation of phosphates under upwelling conditions caused by strong winds from the ancient Asian landmass. These winds also caused significant aridization of the climate during this time. We speculate that pterosaurs may have been attracted to this area by the abundant resources in the bio-productive estuaries and nearshore upwelling waters.
Project description:Analysis of microbial gene expression in response to physical and chemical gradients forming in the Columbia River, estuary, plume and coastal ocean was done in the context of the environmental data base. Gene expression was analyzed for 2,234 individual genes that were selected from fully sequenced genomes of 246 prokaryotic species (bacteria and archaea) as related to the nitrogen metabolism and carbon fixation. Seasonal molecular portraits of differential gene expression in prokaryotic communities during river-to-ocean transition were created using freshwater baseline samples (268, 270, 347, 002, 006, 207, 212). Overall design: Total RNA was isolated from 64 filtered environmental water samples collected in the Columbia River coastal margin during 4 research cruises (14 from August, 2007; 17 from November, 2007; 18 from April, 2008; and 16 from June, 2008), and analyzed using microarray hybridization with the CombiMatrix 4X2K format. Microarray targets were prepared by reverse transcription of total RNA into fluorescently labeled cDNA. All samples were hybridized in duplicate, except samples 212 and 310 (hybridized in triplicate) and samples 336, 339, 50, 152, 157, and 199 (hybridized once). Sample location codes: number shows distance from the coast in km; CR, Columbia River transect in the plume and coastal ocean; NH, Newport Hydroline transect in the coastal ocean at Newport, Oregon; AST and HAM, Columbia River estuary locations near Astoria (river mile 7-9) and Hammond (river mile 5), respectively; TID, Columbia River estuary locations in the tidal basin (river mile 22-23); BA, river location at Beaver Army Dock (river mile 53) near Quincy, Oregon; UP, river location at mile 74.