Biological effects of salinity gradient reversals in a southeast African estuarine lake View Full Text


Ontology type: schema:ScholarlyArticle     


Article Info

DATE

1993-06

AUTHORS

A. T. Forbes, D. P. Cyrus

ABSTRACT

St Lucia Lake on the north coast of Natal, South Africa, has an area of 325 km2 and is the largest estuarine complex in Africa. It consists of a 20 km tidal channel, averagingca. 400 m in width, linking the sea with the non-tidal lake which is H-shaped with a maximum length ofca. 40 km and width ofca. 20 km. Except during flood periods the depth of the lake does not exceed 2 m. The salinity gradient depends on evaporation, the configuration of the mouth and on the input of fresh water from four rivers which discharge into the northern and western areas of the lake. If fresh water input is high, the lake and much of the channel may be fresh. An intermediate stage features a normal salinity gradient while a third stage shows a reversed salinity gradient with salinities in excess of 100‰ in the upper reaches of the system. Changing salinities have marked effects on the biota. Aquatic macrophytes show cycles of appearance and disappearance depending on salinity tolerance and the presence of dormant stages. The resident benthic faunal species go through cycles of range expansion and contraction depending on prevailing salinities and recolonisation by dispersal phases. To date salinities in the southern part of the lake have approached, but not exceeded, lethal levels and this has therefore acted as a reservoir area. Catchment degradation and water abstraction are anticipated to exacerbate future salinity extremes. This has resulted in concern for the long term viability of this Ramsar site which has major southern African populations of hippopotamus and crocodile, provides breeding sites for South African Red Data water bird species and plays an important nursery role for marine fish and penaeid prawns. More... »

PAGES

483-488

Identifiers

URI

http://scigraph.springernature.com/pub.10.1007/bf02334808

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/bf02334808

DIMENSIONS

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