, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 1-19

Salinity and Chlorophyll a as Performance Measures to Rehabilitate a Mangrove-Dominated Deltaic Coastal Region: the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta–Pajarales Lagoon Complex, Colombia

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Abstract

Salinity, water temperature, and chlorophyll a (chl-a) biomass were used as performance measures in the period 1999–2001 to evaluate the effect of a hydrological rehabilitation project in the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta (CGSM)–Pajarales lagoon complex, Colombia where freshwater diversions were initiated in 1995 and completed in 1998. The objective of this study was to evaluate how diversions of freshwater into previously hypersaline (>80) environments changed the spatial and temporal distribution of environmental characteristics. Following the diversion, 19 surveys and transects using a flow-through system were surveyed in the CGSM–Pajarales complex to continuously measure selected water quality parameters. Geostatistical analysis indicates that hydrology and salinity regimes and water circulation patterns in the CGSM lagoon are largely controlled by freshwater discharge from the Fundacion, Aracataca, and Sevilla Rivers. Residence times in the CGSM lagoon were similar before (15.5 ± 3.8 days) and after (14.2 ± 2.0 days) the rehabilitation project and indicated that the system is flushed regularly. In contrast, chl-a biomass was highly variable in the CGSM–Pajarales lagoon complex and not related to discharge patterns. Mean annual chl-a biomass (44–250 μg L−1) following the diversion project was similar to values recorded since the 1980s and still remains among the highest reported in coastal systems around the world owing to its unique hydrology regulated by the Magdalena River and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta watersheds and the high teleconnection to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Our results confirm that the reduction in salinity in the CGSM lagoon and Pajarales complex during 1999–2000 was largely driven by high precipitation (2500 mm) induced by the ENSO–La Niña rather than by the freshwater diversions.

E. Barry Moser is deceased.