Salinity and Marine Mammal Dynamics in Barataria Basin: Historic Patterns and Modeled Diversion Scenarios

Jul 21, 2018

Author(s): Eric White, Francesca Messina, Leland Moss, Ehab Meselhe

Understanding spatiotemporal patterns of salinity in Barataria Basin in coastal Louisiana is important to better understand and manage operations of existing and proposed freshwater and sediment diversions from the Mississippi River into the estuary. In this study, a comprehensive salinity dataset was compiled which covered the entire basin and included data from 1990 through 2015. The data were aggregated into daily mean salinity timeseries across Barataria Basin at a variety of spatial scales and used to analyze historic patterns. Simulations were conducted with two hydrodynamic models, the Integrated Compartment Model (ICM) and Delft3D. The Delft3D model output was overlaid with observed geo-tagged locations of bottlenose dolphins that were sampled from the southwest quadrant of the basin. The ICM simulations were used to assess the impact of existing freshwater and proposed sediment diversion projects which reintroduce riverine water into the estuary. The salinity in the uppermost portions of the basin is sensitive primarily to the existing freshwater diversion, whereas additional flows from a proposed sediment diversion result in additional freshening. The lowermost region of the basin is most sensitive to the proposed sediment diversion; however, the magnitude varies by diverted flow volumes and assumed sea levels in the Gulf of Mexico. Full paper here.