U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
EPA Science Advisory Board
Background Information

Document NameNitrogen and phosphorus transport between Fourleague Bay, LA, and the Gulf of Mexico: the role of winter cold fronts and Atchafalaya River discharge
Document AuthorPerez, B.C.
Day, J.
Justić, D.
Twilley, R.R.
Short DescriptionEstuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 57 (5-6): 1065-1078
CategorySubgroup 1: Characterization of the Cause(s) of Hypoxia
Publication Year2003

Abstract: Nutrient fluxes were measured between Fourleague Bay, a shallow Louisiana estuary, and the Gulf of Mexico every 3 h between February 1 and April 30, 1994 to determine how high velocity winds associated with cold fronts and peak Atchafalaya River discharge influenced transport. Net water fluxes were ebb-dominated throughout the study because of wind forcing and high volumes of water entering the northern Bay from the Atchafalaya River. Flushing time of the Bay averaged <8 days; however, more rapid flushing occurred in response to northerly winds with approximately 56% of the volume of the Bay exported to the Gulf in 1 day during the strongest flushing event. Higher nitrate + nitrite (NO2 + NO3), total nitrogen (TN), and total phosphorus (TP) concentrations were indicative of Atchafalaya River input and fluxes were greater when influenced by high velocity northerly winds associated with frontal passage. Net exports of NO2 + NO3, TN, and TP were 43.5, 98.5, and 13.6 g s(-1), respectively, for the 89-day study. An average of 10.6 g s(-1) of ammonium (NH4) was exported to the Gulf over the study; however, concentrations were lower when associated with riverine influence and wind-driven exports suggesting the importance of biological processes. Phosphate (PO4) fluxes were nearly balanced over the study with fairly stable concentrations indicating a well-buffered system. The results indicate that the high energy subsidy provided by natural pulsing events such as atmospheric cold fronts and seasonal river discharge are efficient mechanisms of nutrient delivery to adjacent wetlands and nearshore coastal ecosystems and are important in maintaining coastal sustainability.