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Nutrient loading and macrophyte growth in Wilson Inlet, a bar-built southwestern Australian estuary

Lukatelich, R.J., Schofield, N.J. and McComb, A.J. (1987) Nutrient loading and macrophyte growth in Wilson Inlet, a bar-built southwestern Australian estuary. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 24 (2). pp. 141-165.

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Wilson Inlet is a ‘bar-built’ estuary, open to the ocean only when a sandbar has been breached after river flow. estimates are presented of phosphorus and nitrogen loadings from rivers, losses to the ocean, and amounts present in estuarine components during a particular year. Following bar opening, a volume of water equivalent to 35% of estuarine volume at the time was lost, providing a major loss of dissolved nutrients from the estuary. While the bar was open (51 days) water was displaced through river flow, but there was little tidal exchange. There was net retention of phosphorus (about 60% of river input) and some loss of nitrogen (less than 15%).

Much of the nutrient held in the estuary was in surface sediments, but concentrations have shown little change with time and are similar to other southwestern estuaries. In contrast there have been massive increases in the biomass of Ruppia megacarpa Mason in recent years; this constitutes more than 90% of plant biomass. The nutrient bank in this plant is large compared to the water column, and amounts recycled through plant material greatly exceeded riverine loading in the year of the study. Tissue N concentrations were relatively high and constant, tissue P relatively low and seasonally variable, suggesting P limitation of plant biomass.

Estimates of nutrient loading from streams showed relatively higher nutrient inputs from catchments cleared for agriculture. These are in higher rainfall areas, have high drainage densities, large proportions of sandy soils and are subjected to phosphatic fertilizer application.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Academic Press
Copyright: © 1987 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
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