Thresholds of terrestrial nutrient loading for the development of eutrophication episodes in a coastal embayment in the Aegean Sea


1 - Thresholds of terrestrial nutrient loading (inorganic N and P) for the development of eutrophication episodes were estimated in an enclosed embayment, the gulf of Kalloni, in the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean. Terrestrial loading was quantified by a watershed runoff model taking into account land use, geomorphology, sewerage, industrial and animal farming by-products. The eutrophication episodes were assessed by an existing scale for the Aegean coastal waters based on chl a, whereas the necessary nutrient concentrations (N and P) for the development of such episodes were defined using a probabilistic procedure. Finally, for the linking between nutrient loading arriving at the gulf and the resulting nutrient enrichment of the marine ecosystem, three loading factors were applied, developed by Vollenweider for lake and marine ecosystems. The first assumes no exchange between the embayment and the open sea, whereas the two others take into account water renewal time. Only the threshold for inorganic nitrogen estimated by the first factor was exceeded in the study area during February after a strong rainfall event coinciding with a eutrophication episode observed in the interior of the gulf, implying that the waters of the gulf are rather confined and the receiving body operates as a lake. The degree of confinement was further examined by studying the temperature, salinity, and density distributions inside the gulf and across the channel connecting the gulf to the open sea. It was found that the incoming freshwater from the watershed during winter results to the formation of a dilute surface layer of low salinity and density, clearly isolated from the open sea. The nutrients from the river inputs are diluted into this isolated water mass and the eutrophication threshold for nitrogen is exceeded. Although phosphorus loading was also high during winter, the corresponding limits were never exceeded. The proposed methodology sets a quantitative relationship between terrestrial nutrient loading and the development of eutrophication episodes in coastal embayments, assuming that information on the physical setting of the system is available. These cause-and-effect relationships can be invaluable tools for managers and decision makers in the framework of Integrated Coastal Zone Management.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i1825229Xv2n3p25

Keywords: terrestrial loading; nutrient thresholds; eutrophication; Vollenweider factors; watershed model; Aegean Sea

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