Temporal patterns in seawater quality from dredging in tropical environments

Jones, Ross, Fisher, Rebecca, Stark, Clair, and Ridd, Peter (2015) Temporal patterns in seawater quality from dredging in tropical environments. PLoS ONE, 10 (10). e0137112. pp. 1-25.

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Maintenance and capital dredging represents a potential risk to tropical environments, especially in turbidity-sensitive environments such as coral reefs. There is little detailed, published observational time-series data that quantifies how dredging affects seawater quality conditions temporally and spatially. This information is needed to test realistic exposure scenarios to better understand the seawater-quality implications of dredging and ultimately to better predict and manage impacts of future projects. Using data from three recent major capital dredging programs in North Western Australia, the extent and duration of natural (baseline) and dredging-related turbidity events are described over periods ranging from hours to weeks. Very close to dredging i.e. <500 m distance, a characteristic features of these particular case studies was high temporal variability. Over several hours suspended sediment concentrations (SSCs) can range from 100–500 mg L-1. Less turbid conditions (10–80 mg L-1) can persist over several days but over longer periods (weeks to months) averages were <10 mg L-1. During turbidity events all benthic light was sometimes extinguished, even in the shallow reefal environment, however a much more common feature was very low light ‘caliginous’ or daytime twilight periods. Compared to pre-dredging conditions, dredging increased the intensity, duration and frequency of the turbidity events by 10-, 5- and 3-fold respectively (at sites <500 m from dredging). However, when averaged across the entire dredging period of 80–180 weeks, turbidity values only increased by 2–3 fold above pre-dredging levels. Similarly, the upper percentile values (e.g., P99, P95) of seawater quality parameters can be highly elevated over short periods, but converge to values only marginally above baseline states over longer periods. Dredging in these studies altered the overall probability density distribution, increasing the frequency of extreme values. As such, attempts to understand the potential biological impacts must consider impacts across telescoping-time frames and changes to extreme conditions in addition to comparing central tendency (mean/median). An analysis technique to capture the entire range of likely conditions over

Item ID: 42381
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Keywords: optical backscatter; water turbidity; photosynthetically active radiation; dredging; coral reefs
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© 2015 Jones et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funders: Western Australian Marine Science Institute (WAMSI), Chevron Australia, Woodside Energy, BHP Billiton
Projects and Grants: WASMI Dredging Science Node
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2016 02:47
FoR Codes: 02 PHYSICAL SCIENCES > 0203 Classical Physics > 020303 Fluid Physics @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960903 Coastal and Estuarine Water Management @ 100%
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