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Biogeochemistry of Estuaries$
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Thomas S. Bianchi

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195160826

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195160826.001.0001

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Estuarine Science and Biogeochemical Cycles

Estuarine Science and Biogeochemical Cycles

(p.3) Chapter 1 Estuarine Science and Biogeochemical Cycles
Biogeochemistry of Estuaries

Thomas S. Bianchi

Oxford University Press

Estuaries are commonly described as semi-enclosed bodies of water, situated at the interface between land and ocean, where seawater is measurably diluted by the inflow of freshwater (Hobbie, 2000). The term “estuary,” derived from the Latin word aestuarium, means marsh or channel (Merriam-Webster, 1979). These dynamic ecosystems have some of the highest biotic diversity and production in the world. Not only do they provide a direct resource for commercially important estuarine species of fishes and shellfish, but they also provide shelter and food resources for commercially important shelf species that spend some of their juvenile stages in estuarine marshes. For example, high fish and shellfish production in the northern Gulf of Mexico is strongly linked with discharge from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers and their associated estuarine wetlands (Chesney and Baltz, 2001). Commercial fishing in this region typically brings in 769 million kg of seafood with a value of $575 million. Fisheries production and coastal nutrient enrichment, via rivers and estuaries, are positively correlated within many coastal systems around the world (Nixon et al., 1986; Caddy, 1993; Houde and Rutherford, 1993). The coupling of physics and biogeochemistry occurs at many spatial scales in estuaries (figure 1.1; Geyer et al., 2000). Estuarine circulation, river and groundwater discharge, tidal flooding, resuspension events, and exchange flow with adjacent marsh systems (Leonard and Luther, 1995) all constitute important physical variables that exert some level of control on estuarine biogeochemical cycles. There has been considerable debate about the definition of an estuary because of the divergent properties found within and among estuaries from different regions of the world. Consequently, there have been numerous attempts to develop a comprehensive and universally accepted definition. Pritchard (1967, p. 1) first defined estuaries based on salinity as “semi-enclosed coastal bodies of water that have a free connection with the open sea and within which sea water is measurably diluted with fresh water derived from land drainage.” A general schematic representation of an estuary, as defined by Pritchard (1967), and further modified by Dalrymple et al. (1992) to include more physical and geomorphological processes, is shown in figure 1.2.

Keywords:   biogeochemical cycles, box models, classification schemes, demographic changes, modeling, nutrient overenrichment

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