Physical, Chemical, and Biological Characteristics of the

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Physical, Chemical, and Biological
Characteristics of the Charlotte Harbor
Basin and Estuarine System in Southwestern
FloridaA Summary of the 1982-89 U.S.
Geological Survey Charlotte Harbor
Assessment and Other Studies

By BENJAMIN F. MCPHERSON, RONALD L. MILLER,
and YVONNE E. STOKER


Prepared in cooperation with the
Florida Department of Environmental Protection




U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY WATER-SUPPLY PAPER 2486
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BRUCE BABBITT, Secretary

U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Gordon P. Eaton, Director




Any use of trade, product, or firm names in this publication is for
descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the
U.S. Government.




UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON: 1996


For sale by the
U.S. Geological Survey
Information Services
Box 25286
Federal Center
Denver, CO 80225

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

McPherson, Benjamin F.
Physical, Chemical, and Biological Characteristics of the Charlotte
  Harbor Basin and Estuarine System in Southwestern Florida :
  a summary of the 1982-89 U.S. Geological Survey Charlotte
  Harbor Assessment and other studies / by Benjamin F. McPherson,
  Ronald L. Miller, and Yvonne E. Stoker.
      p. 32 cm. -- (U.S. Geological Survey water-supply paper ; 2486)
   "Prepared in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental
  Protection."
     Includes bibliographical references (p. 28 - 32).
     Supt. of Docs. no.: I 19.13:W2486
     1. Estuarine oceanography--Florida--Charlotte Harbor (Bay)
   I. Miller, Ronald L. (Ronald Lewis) II. Stoker, Yvonne E.
   III. Florida. Dept. of Environmental Protection. IV. Title. V. Series.
GC512.F6M38 1996
551.46' 34--dc21                                                          96-51656
                                                                             CIP
CONTENTS
Abstract..................................................................................................................................................................................    1
Introduction ...........................................................................................................................................................................      2
      Purpose and Scope.......................................................................................................................................................                4
      Study Area ...................................................................................................................................................................          4
      Climate.........................................................................................................................................................................        5
      Hydrogeology ..............................................................................................................................................................             7
Basin Characteristics .............................................................................................................................................................           8
      Land Use and Water Use .............................................................................................................................................                    8
      Streamflow...................................................................................................................................................................           8
      Water Quality...............................................................................................................................................................            9
Physical, Chemical, and Biological Characteristics of the Estuary.......................................................................................                                     11
      Hydrodynamics............................................................................................................................................................              11
      Salinity.........................................................................................................................................................................      14
      Chemical Characteristics .............................................................................................................................................                 14
              Nutrients ............................................................................................................................................................         14
              Dissolved Oxygen..............................................................................................................................................                 17
              Trace Elements ..................................................................................................................................................              17
              Pesticides and Hydrocarbon Compounds .........................................................................................................                                 18
              Radium...............................................................................................................................................................          19
      Light Environment.......................................................................................................................................................               20
      Biological Communities and Functions ......................................................................................................................                            21
              Phytoplankton....................................................................................................................................................              21
              Mangroves and Saltmarshes ..............................................................................................................................                       24
              Seagrass Meadows.............................................................................................................................................                  25
              Unvegetated Estuary Bottom.............................................................................................................................                        26
Possible Effects of Future Development and Changes..........................................................................................................                                 26
Selected References ...............................................................................................................................................................          28


ILLUSTRATIONS
     1.  Map showing Charlotte Harbor estuarine system and selected data-collection sites .............................................                                                      3
     2.  Charlotte Harbor inflow area and estuary ...............................................................................................................                            5
     3.  Photographs showing biological communities and principal species in coastal south Florida...............................                                                            6
     4.  Shoreline of Charlotte Harbor estuarine system......................................................................................................                                7
     5.  Diagram showing water use by river basin, 1980 ...................................................................................................                                  9
  6-11.  Graphs showing:
          6. Trend in 5-year moving averages of annual mean discharge for the Peace River at Arcadia, 1934-84 ..........                                                                      9
          7. Nutrients as a function of salinity in the Charlotte Harbor estuarine system ..................................................                                                 15
          8. Average monthly concentration of dissolved oxygen in upper Charlotte Harbor, site CH-6, 1976-84 ...........                                                                     17
          9. Three-month moving average of near-bottom dissolved-oxygen concentrations in upper Charlotte
             Harbor, site CH-6, 1976-84..............................................................................................................................                        17
         10. Light attenuation due to dissolved matter as a function of salinity .................................................................                                           21
         11. Irradiance at 5-nanometer intervals..................................................................................................................                           21
     12. Map showing Charlotte Harbor estuarine system and phytoplankton sampling stations........................................                                                           23




                                                                                                                                                                      Contents               III
TABLES
 1. Estuary residence times (ERT, time to flush entire volume of estuary) and pulse residence times (PRT, time
    to flush a pulse from the head of the estuary) in Charlotte Harbor (northern part of the estuarine system) at
    average and high river inflows ................................................................................................. ....................................          13
 2. Concentrations of selected trace elements in bottom sediments collected at transects 1 through 5,
    December 1982 .................................................................................................................. ..........................................    18
 3. Concentrations of pesticides and other organic compounds analyzed in bottom sediments collected at transects
    1 through 5, December 14-16, 1982.............................................................................................. ...............................                19
 4. Average monthly carbon-14 productivity and chlorophyll-a biomass at 12 stations in the Charlotte Harbor
    estuarine system ...........................................................................................................................................................   24
 5. Population projections through the year 2020 by river basin.......................................................................................                             27
 6. Increased total nitrogen loads that could be generated as a result of increased population and stormwater runoff
    through the year 2020...................................................................................................................................................       27

CONVERSION FACTORS, VERTICAL DATUM, AND ABBREVIATED WATER-QUALITY UNITS

                                                                    Multiply                      By                    To obtain

                                                         inch (in.)                          25.4                       millimeter
                                                          foot (ft)                           0.3048                    meter
                                             foot per mile (ft/mi)                            0.1894                    meter per kilometer
                                                        mile (mi)                             1.609                     kilometer
                                                square mile (mi2)                             2.590                     square kilometer
                                                              acre                            0.4047                    hectare
                                     cubic foot per second (ft3/s)                            0.02832                   cubic meter per second
                        cubic foot per second per year [(ft3/s)/yr]                           0.02832                   cubic meter per second per year
                            gallon per day per acre [(gal/d)/acre]                            0.00379                   cubic meter per day per hectare
                                million gallons per day (Mgal/d)                              0.4381                    cubic meter per second
                                               ton per day (ton/d)                            0.9072                    megagram per day

Temperature in degrees Fahrenheit (F) can be converted to degrees Celsius (C) as follows:
                                                                               C = (F - 32)/1.8

      Sea level: In this report, "sea level" refers to the National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD of 1929)--a geodetic
datum derived from a general adjustment of the first-order level nets of the United States and Canada, formerly called Sea
Level Datum of 1929.

Abbreviated water-quality units used in report:

            g/g = micrograms per gram
            m = micrometers
            (mg C/m3)/h = milligrams carbon per cubic meter per hour
            mg/m3 = milligrams per cubic meter
            (mg/m3)/h = milligrams per cubic meter per hour
            mg/L = milligrams per liter
            nm = nanometers
            ppt = parts per thousand
            pCi = picocuries
            pCi/L = picocuries per liter
            pCi/yr = picocuries per year
            Pt-Co = platinum-cobalt




IV       Contents
Physical, Chemical, and Biological Characteristics
of the Charlotte Harbor Basin and Estuarine System
in Southwestern Florida--A Summary of the
1982-89 U.S. Geological Survey Charlotte Harbor
Assessment and Other Studies
By Benjamin F. McPherson, Ronald L. Miller, and Yvonne E. Stoker

Abstract                                               feet per second) freshwater inflows from the
                                                       Peace and Myakka Rivers, 50 percent of the
        The Charlotte Harbor estuarine system,         original water (present at the start of the model
having a surface area of about 270 square miles,       run) would be flushed from the northern part of
averages about 7 feet in depth and is connected to     the estuarine system into the Gulf of Mexico in 10
deep water of the Gulf of Mexico through several       days and 20 days, respectively.
passes and inlets between barrier islands. Three              The distribution of plant nutrients in the
major rivers flow into the estuary ---the Peace, the   Charlotte Harbor Estuary is affected by nutrient
Myakka, and the Caloosahatchee. Freshwater and         inputs, freshwater and tidal flushing, mixing, and
tidal flushing transport nutrients and other           recycling processes in the estuary. The
constituents from the basin through the estuary        distributions of total phosphorus and
into the gulf. Flushing characteristics were           orthophosphate are affected mainly by river input
evaluated using a two-dimensional hydrodynamic         and physical mixing. The distribution of
model. The model indicated that the time               ammonia nitrogen is variable and is related more
required to flush injected dye (simulated) from        to recycling within the estuary than to input from
some subareas of the harbor was longer for             the rivers. Ammonia concentrations increase in
reduced freshwater inflow than for typical             deeper water, probably in response to vertical
freshwater inflow. After 30 days of simulation of      salinity stratification and low concentrations of
reduced freshwater inflow, 42 percent of the dye       dissolved oxygen that foster regeneration of
injected into the upper harbor remained in the         ammonia from bottom sediments. The
upper harbor, compared to 28 percent for typical       distribution of nitrite plus nitrate nitrogen is
freshwater inflow.                                     nonconservative--concentrations are high in the
        The Charlotte Harbor estuary is usually        rivers and decrease more rapidly in the estuary
well mixed or partially mixed in the vertical, but     than expected due to dilution with sea water,
vertical salinity stratification does occur,           probably because of phytoplankton uptake.
primarily during late summer when freshwater                  Phytoplankton productivity and biomass
inflows are greatest. A box model was developed        are usually greatest during late summer near the
that incorporated vertically averaged salinities to    mouths of the tidal rivers when freshwater inflow
account indirectly for three-dimensional transport     and nutrient loading are greatest. The highly
processes associated with vertical stratification.     colored freshwater runoff reduces light
The box model predicts that under high (7,592          penetration and phytoplankton productivity in
cubic feet per second) and average (2,470 cubic        regions of the estuary where salinity is less than

                                                                                              Abstract   1
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