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Status of the Guadiana Estuary (south Portugal) during 1996-1998: An ecohydrological approach

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The aims of this study were to monitor basic hydrological and ecological characteristics of the Guadiana Estuary (1996-1998) before the construction of the Alqueva dam. This work was carried out to determine how environmental factors affect seasonal and tidal variations of plankton populations in the estuary. The available information on the subcatchment of the estuary (e.g., urban, agricultural and forested areas) was integrated into a geographic information system-based software program. Mean monthly river flow varied markedly on a seasonal and yearly basis. River flow near Mértola (ca 50 km upstream from the mouth) reached 3400×106 m3 in winter and decreased to 42×106 m3 in summer. With respect to nutrients, nitrogen to phosphorus ratios indicated some limitation by phosphorus, except at the end of summer, when nitrogen limitation appeared. During this period, cyanobacterial blooms usually occurred in the upper/middle estuary. Estuarine Turbidity Maximum may significantly influence the retention of zooplankton in the estuary. The fish larval life cycle, especially sensitive to environmental alterations, showed high ratios of ribonucleic to desoxyribonucleic acids indicating good physiological condition. It was concluded that an ecohydrological approach, allowing integration of different elements from the cellular to the habitat level into a geographic information system, can contribute to a better understanding of the processes that influence the aquatic biota of the estuary. The approach will be a useful assessment tool for monitoring the estuary following dam completion.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2001

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