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In this paper, the authors examine spatial and temporal variation in hydrology …

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- Variable hydrology and salinity of salt ponds in the British Virgin Islands

BVI salt ponds were hypersaline and showed dramatic salinity fluctuations in response to seasonal rainfall and evaporation patterns. Hydrological variation ranged from permanently inundated ponds with direct sea connection to those fully isolated from the sea and retaining water only after rainfall. Observed variability allowed a classification based on shared hydrological characteristics. This classification appeared to reflect a geologic evolution from open lagoons through several types of salt ponds and finally to salt flats, into which tropical dry forest may intrude (Figure 10).

Identification of representative stages of salt pond evolution will assist in policy and decision making, particularly because external factors such as watershed runoff, sedimentation, infilling and eutrophication, as well as sudden or severe weather events and urban coastal development, will influence salt pond hydrology and salinity. Understanding whether changes are reversible, whether resources are available to reverse or restrain trends, and what will be the implications of non-reversal or slowing of successional changes are all management decisions that need to be made for these habitats. The patterns of variability and succession described here can be used to guide such management decisions.

Anthropogenic activities greatly accelerate the evolutionary processes in salt ponds, thereby rapidly degrading the ecological benefits of salt ponds. Advantages for flood alleviation, sediment retention, shore-line stability, migratory bird populations and others are reduced as salt ponds become sites for landfill, dumping or building (all observed recently in the BVI). The consequent pressures on neighbouring ecosystems, such as silting of bays and reefs, justify further detailed analysis, monitoring and management of salt ponds.

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