Environmental flow requirements of estuaries: providing resilience to current and future climate and direct anthropogenic changes

Chilton, Daniel, Hamilton, David P., Nagelkerken, Ivan, Cook, Perran, Hipsey, Matthew R., Reid, Robert, Sheaves, Marcus, Waltham, Nathan J., and Brookes, Justin (2021) Environmental flow requirements of estuaries: providing resilience to current and future climate and direct anthropogenic changes. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 9. 764218.

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Estuaries host unique biodiversity and deliver a range of ecosystem services at the interface between catchment and the ocean. They are also among the most degraded ecosystems on Earth. Freshwater flow regimes drive ecological processes contributing to their biodiversity and economic value, but have been modified extensively in many systems by upstream water use. Knowledge of freshwater flow requirements for estuaries (environmental flows or E-flows) lags behind that of rivers and their floodplains. Generalising estuarine E-flows is further complicated by responses that appear to be specific to each system. Here we critically review the E-flow requirements of estuaries to 1) identify the key ecosystem processes (hydrodynamics, salinity regulation, sediment dynamics, nutrient cycling and trophic transfer, and connectivity) modulated by freshwater flow regimes, 2) identify key drivers (rainfall, runoff, temperature, sea level rise and direct anthropogenic) that generate changes to the magnitude, quality and timing of flows, and 3) propose mitigation strategies (e.g., modification of dam operations and habitat restoration) to buffer against the risks of altered freshwater flows and build resilience to direct and indirect anthropogenic disturbances. These strategies support re-establishment of the natural characteristics of freshwater flow regimes which are foundational to healthy estuarine ecosystems.

Item ID: 72879
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2296-665X
Keywords: anthropogenic disturbance, climate change, ecosystem process and function, environmental flows (E-flows), estuaries, freshwater flow alteration, freshwater flow requirements, mitigation and adaptation
Copyright Information: © 2021 Chilton, Hamilton, Nagelkerken, Cook, Hipsey, Reid, Sheaves, Waltham and Brookes. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2022 03:50
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410404 Environmental management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180599 Marine systems and management not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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