Influence of fresh water discharge on nutrient distribution in a macrotidal lagoon, West Sussex, UK

S.B. Mitchell, A. Theodoridou, David Pope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Results of nitrate and phosphate concentrations measured using hand-held ‘Hach’ monitors are presented, both over individual tidal cycles and over longer term deployments at Pagham Harbour, West Sussex, UK. This macrotidal lagoon (offshore tidal range 3.0 m neaps–6.5 m springs) is a site of key importance as a nature reserve and a home for several rare species of plants and animals. In particular, the effects of fresh water-salt water stratification over 4 tidal cycles at two tidal-fresh water boundaries is presented. It is shown that obtaining periodic vertical profile measurements during individual tidal cycles helps to quantify the transport mechanisms of nutrients from the tidal limits into the main body of the lagoon. Of key interest is the interaction between sediment-bound nutrients with the surrounding water in which the sediment is suspended during parts of the tidal cycle. Synthesis of these results with existing knowledge about sediment-water-nutrient interactions reveals how it is possible for nutrients to become trapped at the muddy tidal limits of the lagoon. In certain cases it is shown that nutrient-rich water from fresh water streams only gradually mixes with the denser, salt water of the incoming tide. Whilst a degree of salinity-induced stratification may be expected during the flood tide, these observations suggest that the water column is stratified with respect to both N and P, even well into the ebb tide. Thus at sites where stratification is important, there is a tendency for nutrients to remain preferentially near the water surface, and thus come into contact with fine, less mobile sediments near the surface of inter-tidal zones, which are themselves, in general, accreting. Since the overlying water is generally slow-moving during high water, it is postulated that saline-induced vertical stratification of estuarine water is an important mechanism in promoting nutrient build-up in muddy inter-tidal areas of this kind.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-270
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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