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Troubled waters: Low Apalachicola River flow may hurt gulf fisheries
Date:6/19/2009

d parts of eastern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The researchers used satellite ocean color data and computer models of ocean circulation to identify a region extending about 125 miles offshore of Apalachicola Bay in which the changes in ocean color, which is indicative of the abundance of phytoplankton and other organic material in the water, is linked to changes in the river flow.

The researchers outlined their findings in an article, "Connectivity of the Apalachicola River flow variability and the physical and bio-optical oceanic properties of the northern West Florida Shelf," published in the journal Continental Shelf Research.

The findings broaden the environmental considerations of managed flow reductions in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) river system. The Apalachicola River, the final leg of the river system, has been the focus of a nearly 20-year legal battle between Florida, Georgia and Alabama, known as the Tri-State Water War. At the heart of the dispute is Georgia's desire to divert water from the ACF river system to the burgeoning population of the Atlanta metropolitan area, and Florida and Alabama's contention that this flow reduction could have negative consequences for the downstream river environment.

The Apalachicola River is considered a "hot spot" of ecological biodiversity, and Apalachicola Bay supports extensive finfish and shellfish communities dependent on the regular flow of freshwater from the river. The river is a source of nutrients that can contribute to the abundance of phytoplankton, which are consumed by small zooplankton, thus feeding the marine food web in the region. The strongest connection between the river flow rate and the offshore water properties is seen during the late winter and early spring months, which coincide with the spawning period of several reef fish species.

"It is possible that if the natural flow of the river is reduced by water being diverted to r
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Contact: Steven Morey
morey@coaps.fsu.edu
850-644-0345
Florida State University
Source:Eurekalert

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