The role of creeks for tidal exchange in the mangrove forest of Lac Bay, Bonaire


The mangrove forest in Lac Bay, Bonaire, experiences a die-off of trees in its northern area (Awa di Lodo). This die-off is caused by a combination of hypersaline conditions, long inundation periods and excess sedimentation. It is expected that an increase in the tidal exchange between Lac Bay and Awa di Lodo will decrease the mangrove stressors in Awa di Lodo creating improved environmental conditions for mangroves to grow. The tidal exchange consists of flow through the vegetated forest (sheet flow) and through the creeks (creek flow). Awa di Lodo has two main creeks connections to the forest fringe, the eastern and the western creek system. Due to mangrove roots growing into the creeks in combination with sedimentation, the creeks eventually close off and thereby reduce the creek flow. The Mangrove Maniacs are restoring the creeks in Lac Bay to improve environmental conditions for mangroves and they want a better understanding of the impacts of their work. This study aims to create more insight into the tidal-induced hydrodynamic processes in Lac Bay and the contribution of creeks in the mangrove forest to the tidal exchange.

During a field campaign from January to March 2022 field data were collected on flow velocities, water levels and topographic characteristics of Lac Bay. The field campaign spanned three spring-neap tidal cycles. The analysis of the gathered data was combined with a literature study to investigate the hydrodynamic characteristics in the area. Based on the data from the field campaign, a hydrodynamic model (Delft3D) was built to analyse the effects of tidal creeks restoration on flow velocities, tidal exchange and water levels of Awa di Lodo.

The field measurements show that the tidal wave is diurnal and has a negligible delay propagating through the open water of Lac Bay. In Awa di Lodo, high water is reached on average more than four hours later than in the open bay. During spring tide, the tidal range in the open water is sufficiently large to create an increasing trend in the water level in Awa di Lodo. The water level lowers again when the tidal range decreases during neap tide. Flow velocities in the creeks mainly depend on the water level difference between the open water and Awa di Lodo, meaning that larger water level differences induce larger flow velocities. In addition, the western creek connecting the bay with Awa di Lodo shows a strong flood dominant peak velocity asymmetry, while the eastern creek varies from marginally flood dominant during spring tides, to strongly ebb dominant during neap tide. A flood dominant tidal duration asymmetry in Awa di Lodo indicates that sheet flow during high tides is responsible for the fast increase of the water level in Awa di Lodo while during low tides the creeks are responsible for the outflow.

The hydrodynamic model simulations of the tidal dynamics in Lac Bay replicate the magnitude of the measured flow velocities in the creeks of Lac Bay. The model does not show the measured ebb flow in the western and centre creek. Water levels in Awa di Lodo are modelled well, except for an overestimation of low water levels and an overestimation of the water level increase. It was found that creeks have a significant influence on the tidal exchange between the open water and Lac Bay. The model showed that the creation of a new creek connection to Awa di Lodo, either by extending the centre creek or by creating a new creek, is found to be the most efficient to increase the tidal exchange. It was concluded that the widening of the creeks, deepening of the creeks or extension of the eastern creek system would have a limited effect on the tidal exchange. Creek restoration is shown to be an effective measure to increase the tidal exchange in the mangrove forest of Lac Bay.

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