Terrigenous Sedimentation Patterns at Reefs Adjacent to the Guanica Bay Watershed, Southwest Puerto Rico

Monday, 15 December 2014
Clark Sherman, University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, Mayaguez, PR, United States and David Whitall, NOAA-NCCOS, Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment, Silver Spring, MD, United States
Guanica Bay is an estuary on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico with numerous nearshore reefs located in adjacent coastal waters. As part of the multi-agency Guanica Bay Watershed Project, a study was undertaken to establish baseline levels of terrigenous sedimentation reaching reefs adjacent to the Guanica Bay watershed as well as establish spatial and temporal patterns in its delivery. To characterize and quantify sedimentation patterns, sediment traps were established at nine reef sites occurring along an ~ 14 km stretch of coastline centered on the outlet of the bay. Sites were located at shallow reefs within 2 km of the shore at depths of ~ 10 m. Two additional sites were located at the mouth of the Rio Loco where it empties into Guanica Bay and at the mouth of the bay where it opens into adjacent coastal waters. Traps were collected monthly from August 2009 through July 2012 to determine both the amount of sediment accumulation (mg cm-2 day-1) and its composition. Composition is expressed in terms of relative amounts of calcium carbonate (in situ production), organic material and terrigenous material. Average trap accumulation rates among the reef sites ranged from ~ 3 to 28 mg cm-2 day-1. Average percent terrigenous material within reef accumulation ranged from ~ 20% to 30%. While trap accumulation rates are highly variable on both spatial and temporal scales, the composition of sediments and relative amount of terrigenous material is fairly uniform. Similar temporal patterns in accumulation rates among the sites without corresponding changes in composition of sediments point to resuspension of bottom sediments by wave action as a primary driver of sedimentary dynamics at these reefs. Sites closest to Guanica Bay display the highest degree of terrigenous influence in terms of trap accumulation rates and percent terrigenous material, which is consistent with Guanica Bay serving as a local source of terrigenous material to coastal waters. However, the lack of east-west trends relative to the bay mouth in either trap accumulation rates or percent terrigenous material indicates that Guanica Bay is not the sole or necessarily primary source of terrigenous materials reaching nearshore reefs.