A 1-D ecohydrology model is proposed that integrates physical, chemical and biological processes in the Guadiana Estuary during low flow conditions and that predicts the ecosystem health as determined by the following variables: river discharge, nutrients, suspended particulate matter, phytoplankton, zooplankton, bivalves, zooplanktivorous fish and carnivorous/omnivorous fish. Low flow conditions prevail now that the Alqueva dam has been constructed. The ecological sub-model is based on the non-linear Lotka-Volterra equation. The model is successful in capturing the observations of along-river changes in these variables. It suggests that both bottom-up and top-down ecological processes control the Guadiana Estuary ecosystem health. A number of sensitivity tests show that the model is robust and can be used to predict - within likely error bounds provided by the sensitivity tests - the consequences on the estuary ecosystem health of human activities throughout the river catchment, such as the irrigation farming downstream of the Alqueva dam, reclamation of the salt marshes by urban developments, and flow regulation by the Alqueva dam. The model suggests that the estuarine ecosystem health requires transient river floods and is compromised by flow regulation by the Alqueva dam. Remedial measures are thus necessary. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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