Main Article Content

Responses of primary producers to mouth closure in the temporarily open/closed Great Brak Estuary in the warm-temperate region of South Africa

M Nunes
JB Adams


Low river inflow conditions during 2009/2010 resulted in the mouth of the Great Brak Estuary remaining closed for almost two years. The low water level in Wolwedans Dam resulted in no annual environmental flow releases being made, causing mouth closure. The response of primary producers to this prolonged period of mouth closure was investigated in 2010/2011. Urban and agricultural development in the river catchment and along the estuary banks had increased the nutrient inputs into the estuary. Mouth closure, combined with elevated nutrient concentrations, increased the growth of both macroalgae and microalgae, but little change was observed in the submerged macrophytes. Macroalgal mats covered large areas of open-water surface, smothering the salt marsh and causing a decrease in its cover. These results have important implications for the management of temporarily open/closed estuaries, as increased development, freshwater abstraction and reduced river flow will result in prolonged periods of closure and reduced tidal exchange, which is likely to lead to eutrophication.

Keywords: eutrophication, macroalgae, macrophytes, nutrients, phytoplankton, salt marsh

African Journal of Aquatic Science 2014, 39(4): 387–394