Circulation and stratification changes in a hypersaline estuary due to mean sea level rise

Soheila Taebi, Charitha Pattiaratchi, Ivan Haigh, Gary Kendrick

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Hypersaline Hamelin Pool, with mean salinity >65, is located in Shark Bay, Western Australia. The high salinity has reduced its biodiversity, but it is home to a diverse assemblage of modern marine stromatolites. The limited exchange of water between Hamelin Pool and the rest of Shark Bay, due to the presence of the shallow Faure Sill together with high evaporation and low rainfall-runoff have resulted in a hypersaline environment. With climate-change-induced mean sea level rise (MSLR), hydrodynamic processes that maintain the hypersaline environment may be affected and are the focus of this paper. Oceanographic observations, together with hydrodynamic model results, were used to examine the hydrodynamic processes under present and future MSLR scenarios. A large attenuation in the tidal range, changes in the tidal characteristics, and current speeds together with a strong salinity gradient were observed across the Faure Sill under present-day conditions. Under an MSLR scenario of 1 m, the tidal amplitude decreased by up to 10% to the north, whilst to the south, the tidal range increased by up to 15%. Regions of strong vertical stratification were present on both sides of the Faure Sill. The simulations indicated that, under MSLR scenarios, these regions expanded in area and exhibited higher levels of vertical stratification. The salt flux across the Faure Sill was maintained as a diffusive process under MSLR scenarios.
Original languageEnglish
Article number579
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


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