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Biological effects of salinity gradients reversals in a southeast African estuarine lake
Forbes, A.T.; Cyrus, D.P. (1993). Biological effects of salinity gradients reversals in a southeast African estuarine lake. Neth. J. Aquat. Ecol. 27(2-4): 483-488. https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF02334808
In: Netherlands Journal of Aquatic Ecology. Kluwer Academic Publishers/Netherlands Society of Aquatic Ecology: Bilthoven. ISSN 1380-8427; e-ISSN 2214-7098, more
Also appears in:
Meire, P.; Vincx, M. (Ed.) (1993). Marine and estuarine gradients: ECSA 21: Proceedings of the 21st symposium of the Estuarine and Coastal Sciences Association held in Gent, 9-14 september 1991. Netherlands Journal of Aquatic Ecology, 27(2-4). Netherlands Society of Aquatic Ecology: Bilthoven. 496 pp., more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Marine/Coastal; Brackish water

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  • Forbes, A.T.
  • Cyrus, D.P.

    St Lucia Lake on the north coast of Natal, South Africa, has an area of 325 km2 and is the largest estuarine complex in Africa. It consists of a 20 km tidal channel, averaging ca. 400 m in width, linking the sea with the non-tidal lake which is H-shaped with a maximum length of ca. 40 km and width of ca. 20 km. Except during flood periods the depth of the lake does not exceed 2 m. The salinity gradient depends on evaporation, the configuration of the mouth and on the input of fresh water from four rivers which discharge into the northern and western areas of the lake. If fresh water input is high, the lake and much of the channel may be fresh. An intermediate stage features a normal salinity gradient while a third stage shows a reversed salinity gradient with salinities in excess of 100°/oo in the upper reaches of the system. Changing salinities have marked effects on the biota. Aquatic macrophytes show cycles of appearance and disappearance depending on salinity tolerance and the presence of dormant stages. The resident benthic faunal species go through cycles of range expansion and contraction depending on prevailing salinities and recolonisation by dispersal phases. To date salinities in the southern part of the lake have approached, but not exceeded, lethal levels and this has therefore acted as a reservoir area. Catchment degradation and water abstraction are anticipated to exacerbate future salinity extremes. This has resulted in concern for the long term viability of this Ramsar site which has major southern African populations of hippopotamus and crocodile, provides breeding sites for South African Red Data water bird species and plays an important nursery role for marine fish and penaeid prawns.

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