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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  05 Jun 2020

05 Jun 2020

Review status
A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Climate change overtakes coastal engineering as the dominant driver of hydrologic change in a large shallow lagoon

Peisheng Huang1,2, Karl Hennig3, Jatin Kala4, Julia Andrys4, and Matthew R. Hispey1,2 Peisheng Huang et al.
  • 1Aquatic Ecodynamics, UWA School of Agriculture and Environment, The University of Western Australia, Crawley WA 6009, Australia
  • 2UWA Oceans Institute, The University of Western Australia, Crawley WA 6009, Australia
  • 3Water Science Branch, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, Perth WA 6842, Australia
  • 4Environmental and Conservation Sciences, Murdoch University, Murdoch WA 6015, Australia

Abstract. Ecosystems in shallow, micro-tidal lagoons are particularly sensitive to hydrologic changes. Lagoons are also highly complex transitional ecosystems between land and sea, and the signals of direct human disturbance to the lagoon can be confounded by variability of the climate system, but from an effective estuary management perspective the effects of climate versus direct human engineering interventions need to be identified separately. Although many estuarine lagoons have undergone substantial human interventions, such as artificial channels, the effects from the interaction of climate change with engineering interventions have not been well evaluated. This study developed a 3D finite-volume hydrodynamic model to assess changes in hydrodynamics of the Peel-Harvey Estuary, a large chocked-type lagoon, considering how attributes such as water retention time, salinity and stratification have responded to a range of factors, focusing on the drying climate trend and the opening of a large artificial channel over the period from 1970 to 2016, and how they will evolve under current climate projections. The results show that the drying climate has fundamentally changed the hydrology by comparable magnitudes to that of the opening of the artificial channel, and also highlight the complexity of their interacting impacts. Firstly, the artificial channel successfully improved the estuary flushing by reducing average water ages by 20–110 days; while in contrast the reduced precipitation and catchment inflow had a gradual opposite effect on the water ages, and during the wet season this has almost counteracted the reduction brought about by the channel. Secondly, the drying climate caused an increase in the salinity of the lagoon by 10–30 PSU; whilst the artificial channel increased the salinity during the wet season, it has reduced the likelihood of hypersalinity (> 40 PSU) during the dry season in some areas. The impacts also varied spatially in this large lagoon. The southern estuary, which has the least connection with ocean through the natural channel, is the most sensitive to climate change and the opening of the artificial channel. The projected future drying climate is shown to slightly increase the retention time and salinity in the lagoon, and increase the hypersalinity risk in the rivers. The significance of these changes for nutrient retention and estuary ecology are discussed, highlighting the importance of these factors when setting up monitoring programs, environmental flow strategies and nutrient load reduction targets.

Peisheng Huang et al.

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Peisheng Huang et al.

Peisheng Huang et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Our results conclude that the climate change in the past decades has a remarkable effect on the hydrology of a large shallow lagoon with the same magnitude as that caused by the opening of an artificial channel, and also highlighted the complexity of their interactions. We suggested the consideration of the projected drying trend is essential in designing management plans associated with planning for environmental water provision and setting water quality loading targets.
Our results conclude that the climate change in the past decades has a remarkable effect on the...