Climate change is increasing variation in freshwater input and the intensity of this variation in estuarine systems throughout the world. Estuarine salinity responds to dynamic meteorological and hydrological processes with important consequences to physical features, such as vertical stratification, as well as living resources, such as the distribution, abundance and diversity of species. We developed and evaluated two space-time statistical models to predict bottom salinity in Pamlico Sound, NC: (i) process and (ii) time models. Both models used 20-years of observed salinity and contained a deterministic component designed to represent four key processes that affect salinity: (1) recent and long-term fresh water influx (FWI) from four rivers, (2) mixing with the ocean through inlets, (3) hurricane incidence, and (4) interactions among these variables. Freshwater discharge and distance from an inlet to the Atlantic Ocean explained the most variance in dynamic salinity. The final process model explained 89% of spatiotemporal variability in salinity in a withheld dataset, whereas the final time model explained 87% of the variability within the same withheld data set. This study provides a methodological template for modeling salinity and other normally-distributed abiotic variables in this lagoonal estuary.
Part of the book: Lagoon Environments Around the World