Title

Effects of land-use change on characteristics and dynamics of watershed discharges in Babeldaob, Palau, Micronesia

Document Type

Article

Publication details

Golbuu, Y, Wolanski, E, Harrison, P, Richmond, RH, Victor, S & Fabricius, KE 2011, 'Effects of land-use change on characteristics and dynamics of watershed discharges in Babeldaob, Palau, Micronesia', Journal of Marine Biology, vol. 2011.

Article available on Open Access

Peer Reviewed

Peer-Reviewed

Abstract

This study assessed the impacts of differing levels of land development in four watersheds in Palau on river sediment yield and on sedimentation and turbidity. Area corrected sediment yield was strongly related to land development (r2 = 0.96, P = 0.02), varying from 9.7 to 216 tons km−2 yr−1 between the least and most developed watershed. Mean sedimentation rates on reefs ranged from 0.7 to 46 mg cm−2 d−1, and mean turbidity ranged from 9 to 139 mg l−1. The higher values exceeded those known to harm corals. Because Palau's watersheds and estuaries are small, river floods were short-lived (typically lasting less than a day) and the estuaries adjusted just as quickly to a number of different estuarine circulation patterns that, in turn, generated a large variability in the export of riverine fine sediment to the reefs. The ultimate fate of the fine sediment deposited on the reefs depended on wind resuspension, local currents, and geomorphology (whether the bay was open or semi-enclosed). Palau's small estuaries were generally not as effective as bigger estuaries in trapping sediments and thus at sheltering the reefs. Therefore, greater efforts are needed to control and mitigate land activities that contribute to the increase in sediment yield.