JOURNAL ARTICLE

Goals and remedial strategies for water quality and wildlife management in a coastal lagoon—a case-study of Ringkøbing Fjord, Denmark

Lars Håkanson, Andreas C Bryhn
Journal of Environmental Management 2008, 86 (3): 498-519
17275160
The aim of this work is (1) to discuss approaches and tools to set management goals using operational indicators for coastal management (i.e., indicators that are easy to measure, understand and predict) and validated predictive models and (2) to discuss remedial strategies for sustainable coastal management regarding water quality and the abundance of fish, waterfowl and large aquatic plants. These approaches are exemplified using data from Ringkøbing Fjord, Denmark, which has undergone two major regime shifts during the last decades. This work discusses the changes taken place during the period from 1980 to 2004 (when there are good empirical data). For Ringkøbing Fjord, which is a very shallow, well-oxygenated lagoon dominated by resuspension processes, we have targeted on the following operational indicators, which are meant to reflect seasonal median values for the entire defined coastal area (the ecosystem scale) and not conditions at individual sites or data from shorter time periods: Secchi depth (as a standard measure of water clarity) and chlorophyll-a concentrations (as a key measure of algal biomass). The operational indicators are regulated by a set of standard abiotic factors, such as salinity, suspended particulate matter (SPM), nutrient concentrations (N and P), coastal morphometry and water exchange. Such relationships are quantified using well-tested, general quantitative models, which illustrate how these indicators are interrelated and how they reflect fundamental aspects of coastal ecosystems. We demonstrate that the regime shift in the lagoon can be modelled and quantitatively explained and is related to changes in salinity and nutrient inflow. A very important threshold is linked to increased salinities in the lagoon. For example, when the mean annual salinity is higher than about 9.5 per thousand, large numbers of saltwater species of clams can survive and influence the structure and function of the ecosystem in profound ways. The model also illustrates the dynamic response to changes in nutrient loading. We have presented several management strategies with the goal of keeping the Secchi depth at 2m, which would stimulate the growth of higher aquatic plants, which are fundamental for fish production and bird abundance in the lagoon. Given the fact that the Secchi depth depends on many variable factors (temperature, TP-inflow from land, salinity, changes in biomasses of macrophytes and clams, which are accounted for in these simulations), our results indicate that in practice it will likely be very difficult to reach that goal. However, it would be realistic to maintain a Secchi depth of 1.5m if the variability in salinity is minimized and the mean salinity is kept at about 10.2%.

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