Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 129, Issue 1–3, pp 397–412 | Cite as

A Classification of U.S. Estuaries Based on Physical and Hydrologic Attributes

  • Virginia D. Engle
  • Janis C. Kurtz
  • Lisa M. Smith
  • Cynthia Chancy
  • Pete Bourgeois
Article

Abstract

A classification of U.S. estuaries is presented based on estuarine characteristics that have been identified as important for quantifying stressor–response relationships in coastal systems. Estuaries within a class have similar physical and hydrologic characteristics and would be expected to demonstrate similar biological responses to stressor loads from the adjacent watersheds. Nine classes of estuaries were identified by applying cluster analysis to a database for 138 U.S. estuarine drainage areas. The database included physical measures of estuarine areas, depth and volume, as well as hydrologic parameters (i.e., tide height, tidal prism volume, freshwater inflow rates, salinity, and temperature). The ability of an estuary to dilute or flush pollutants can be estimated using physical and hydrologic properties such as volume, bathymetry, freshwater inflow and tidal exchange rates which influence residence time and affect pollutant loading rates. Thus, physical and hydrologic characteristics can be used to estimate the susceptibility of estuaries to pollutant effects. This classification of estuaries can be used by natural resource managers to describe and inventory coastal systems, understand stressor impacts, predict which systems are most sensitive to stressors, and manage and protect coastal resources.

Keywords

Classification Estuaries Stressor–response models 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Virginia D. Engle
    • 1
  • Janis C. Kurtz
    • 1
  • Lisa M. Smith
    • 1
  • Cynthia Chancy
    • 1
  • Pete Bourgeois
    • 2
  1. 1.ORD/NHEERL, Gulf Ecology DivisionU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyGulf BreezeUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological Survey, NWRC Gulf Breeze Project OfficeGulf BreezeUSA

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