Assessment of eutrophication in a subtropical lagoon in the Gulf of California
Understanding the susceptibility of coastal ecosystems to nutrient loads from anthropogenic sources and the extent of eutrophication in subtropical and tropical estuaries is still a challenge. This study assessed eutrophication in Guaymas Bay, a subtropical lagoon that receives nutrient-rich urban wastewater discharges. Eutrophication was evaluated by means of the Assessment of Estuarine Trophic Status model. Our results showed that the trophic status of Guaymas Bay was “good.” It is important to consider that: (1) the dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll a levels observed are indicative of a healthy ecosystem, and (2) the key factors explaining this finding are the high susceptibility to eutrophication of the lagoon and the dominance of macroalgae species that respond to nutrient enrichment. This implies that the Overall Eutrophic Condition Index of the Assessment of Estuarine Trophic Status model is a valuable tool for use as an eutrophication indicator based on the abundance of primary producers (macroalgae and phytoplankton). One source of uncertainty in the application of the model to this semi-arid coastal lagoon deals with estimating its susceptibility to eutrophication. The model showed that the lagoon is a highly sensitive ecosystem; however, significant factors are in place, such as an adequate water exchange, that reduce its susceptibility to eutrophication. In conclusion, the trophic status observed at Guaymas Bay is acceptable; however, an environmental management plan is necessary to prevent any adverse effects of eutrophication.