How hurricane attributes determine the extent of environmental effects: Multiple hurricanes and different coastal systems

Abstract

The most recent spate of hurricanes to strike the United States and Caribbean (1989 to the present) has occurred when many of the affected areas had long-term water quality and biological data collection efforts ongoing, as well as special follow-up studies. These data have allowed researchers to obtain a much clearer picture of how individual characteristics of hurricanes interact with human land use to lead to various types and degrees of environmental effects. Common deleterious water quality effects associated with hurricanes include excessive nutrient loading, algal blooms, elevated biochemical oxygen demand and subsequent hypoxia and anoxia, fish and invertebrate kills, aquatic animal displacements, large scale releases of chemical pollutants and debris from damaged human structures, exacerbated spread of exotic species and pathogens, and pollution of water with fecal microbial pathogens. These and other effects may or may not occur, or occur to varying degrees, depending upon individual hurricane characteristics including category, point of landfall, wind speed, amount of rainfall, and path after landfall. Landfall in a populous area, a post-landfall trajectory upriver toward a headwater region, passage along a floodplain containing pollution sources (such as wastewater treatment plants, concentrated animal feeding operations, and septic systems), and intensity sufficient to damage power generation will all lead to increased environmental damage. We suggest a number of recommendations for post-hurricane water sampling parameters and techniques, and provide several management-oriented recommendations for better coastal and floodplain land use aimed at lessening the water quality effects of hurricanes.

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Correspondence to Michael A. Mallin.

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Mallin, M.A., Corbett, C.A. How hurricane attributes determine the extent of environmental effects: Multiple hurricanes and different coastal systems. Estuaries and Coasts: J ERF 29, 1046–1061 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02798667

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Keywords

  • Storm Surge
  • Submarine Groundwater Discharge
  • Submerse Aquatic Vegetation
  • Citrus Canker
  • South Florida Water Management District