Nutrient concentration, loads and retention in a semiarid micro-estuary: The relative contribution of baseflow and flood events

Y. Suari*, T. Topaz, O. Bassa, M. Gilboa, H. Sedaka, T. Sade, B. Chefetz, G. Yahel

*Corresponding author for this work

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Estuaries are a significant source of nutrients to the marine environment. The magnitude of this source is a function of nutrients load reaching the estuary and removal (attenuation) within estuaries. Most estuarine research is conducted in large estuaries, which do not reflect the processes in small estuaries in urban and semi-arid regions where flood water is a substantial portion of the annual discharge and the estuarine baseflow is often low and dominated by wastewater. To improve the understanding of nutrient attenuation and load into the Mediterranean, we conducted high-resolution nutrient sampling in the eutrophic Alexander micro-estuary as a test case. We sampled once per month during baseflows (years 2014–2019) and hourly during floods (years 2016–2018). The concentrations of inorganic nutrients (phosphorous (P) and nitrogen (N)) were extremely high during baseflows. Dissolved ammonium and particulate P were the only nutrients that were in the estuary (by 55 % and 30 %, respectively). Floods were rare, occurring ~4 % of the time, but contributed 62 % of the annual water discharge of the Alexander micro-estuary (14.7 ± 3.8 106 m3 y−1). The concentration of all dissolved nutrients decreased during floods but was higher than expected (DIN 584 ± 50 μmol L−1, phosphate 21 ± 2 μmol L−1), accounting for 42 % and 55 % of the overall annual DIN (123.5 ± 44.9-ton yr−1) and P (6.7 ± 1.9 ton yr−1) loads to sea, respectively. The N:P ratios were 16 and 34 during baseflow and flood events, respectively. Previously, nutrient loads were calculated by multiplying baseflow-measured concentrations by the total water volume of baseflow and floods. Our calculations, based on high-resolution sampling, revealed lower annual loads of P and N to the sea that were 56 % and 89 % of previous estimates, which is a considerable difference in an oligotrophic system such as the eastern Mediterranean.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number172805
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 25 Jun 2024

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© 2024 Elsevier B.V.


  • Eutrophication
  • Flood-water
  • Nutrient retention


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