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Turbidity in Relation to High Flow Events in the Hudson River Estuary

Abstract

In 2011, Tropical Storms Irene and Lee made their impact on the Hudson River: sediment input was five times the annual average. Following these storms, one of the Hudson’s most common underwater plants, Vallisneria americana (water celery), experienced a 90% decline in distribution. Research shows that the storms caused changes linked to increased turbidity. This study aims to expand our understanding of the relationship between high flow events and turbidity in the Hudson. Discharge and turbidity data – spanning 12 years - collected by U.S. Geological Survey and Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System were used to test for correlation between high flow and turbidity. By examining a wider range of high flow events – not limited to Tropical Storms and Hurricanes – a strong, exponential relationship between high flow and turbidity was revealed. The results suggest high flow events have the potential to increase turbidity in the Hudson River, with higher flow leading to increasingly greater turbidity. The increased turbidity from flow events we examined would cause an ecologically significant decline in light penetration with negative implications for plant growth. Efforts to reduce sediments loading would be strategic as severe storms are likely to become more frequent in the future as a result of climate change.

Year of Publication
2020
Secondary Title
Undergraduate Ecology Research Reports
URL https://www.caryinstitute.org/sites/default/files/public/reprints/mccarthy_2020_reu.pdf
REU Research Report