Acute Physicochemical Effects in a Large River-Floodplain System Associated with the Passage of Hurricane Gustav

Abstract

On 1 September 2008, Hurricane Gustav passed over the Atchafalaya River Basin (ARB) in south-central Louisiana. Anticipating physicochemical shifts due to concentrated precipitation and wind stress generated by this strong category 2 storm, we deployed a continuous recording multiparameter water quality sonde in a southern ARB bayou 3 days prior to storm arrival to document conditions before, during, and after hurricane landfall. Quarter-hourly physicochemical measurements taken over a 2-week period indicated that dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, and specific conductance all reached annual lows immediately following storm passage. The most pronounced post-storm fluctuation involved DO. Daily mean DO concentration dropped to hypoxic level (DO ≤ 2 mg/L) within 3 days of landfall, followed by near anoxic conditions within 5 days that resulted in extensive system-wide fish kills. Within 6 weeks, however, DO returned to, and pH was near pre-storm levels. To evaluate the impact of Hurricane Gustav on ARB physicochemistry, we contrasted data on DO, pH, temperature, and specific conductance collected from 16 lower ARB sampling sites over a 54-day interval prior to storm landfall with data collected during a 45-day post-storm period. Results indicated that water quality was highly dissimilar (P < 0.0001) between the two periods.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Melissa Fries and Jason Hughes for field assistance and Jonathan West for YSI support. This manuscript was approved for publication by the director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station as manuscript 11-241-5508.

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Correspondence to Christopher P. Bonvillain.

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Bonvillain, C.P., Halloran, B.T., Boswell, K.M. et al. Acute Physicochemical Effects in a Large River-Floodplain System Associated with the Passage of Hurricane Gustav. Wetlands 31, 979 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-011-0213-4

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Keywords

  • Atchafalaya River Basin
  • Dissolved oxygen
  • Hypoxia
  • Louisiana
  • Water quality