Instability of the turbidity maximum in the macrotidal Geum River estuary, western Korea

Research paper by Keita W. Suzuki, Woo-Seok Gwak, Kouji Nakayama, Masaru Tanaka

Indexed on: 20 Nov '09Published on: 20 Nov '09Published in: Limnology


In the low-salinity area of many macrotidal estuaries, through the combination of tidal pumping and estuarine circulation, an estuarine turbidity maximum (ETM) develops providing favorable conditions for various organisms. To investigate ecological roles of the ETM in East Asian estuaries, we conducted seasonal observations in the Geum (or Keum) River estuary, one of the representative macrotidal estuaries flowing into the Yellow Sea, from 2007 to 2008. The estuary was frequently filled with high-salinity (>10 PSU) and low-turbidity (<100 NTU) water under small or no freshwater discharge from a dam (ca. 8 km upstream from the river mouth). Brackish water was, however, completely pushed out of the estuary within a few hours after an intensive discharge in summer. Chlorophyll a (up to 50 µg l−1) and pheophytin (up to 80 µg l−1) were concentrated in a low-salinity (<1 PSU) and high-turbidity (up to 1000 NTU) area, indicating that the intensive discharge transported both living phytoplankton and resuspended detritus into the area. In contrast, a phytoplankton bloom (chlorophyll a, up to 100 µg l−1) was observed at low salinities under little discharge in winter. The present study demonstrated an absence of the ETM suitable for estuarine-dependent organisms from the present Geum River estuary, indicating potential importance of adequate control of freshwater discharge for the formation and maintenance of the ETM.