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Return to Monitoring Estuaries

Water Temperature

temperature | depth | salinity | dissolved oxygen | turbidity | pH | nutrients | chlorophyll


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  This animation shows how increasing temperature affects the concentration of oxygen in water. When the animation starts, the temperature of the water cube is very low. At low temperatures the molecules move slowly, and a lot of oxygen can be dissolved into the water. As the animation progresses, the temperature of the water increases. With increasing temperature the molecules' movement increases, and most of the oxygen escapes into the atmosphere.  

Just knowing the temperature of the water in an estuary can give us a pretty good idea of how healthy it is. One important thing we can tell from water temperature is how much oxygen can be dissolved into the water.

Dissolved oxygen is critical for the survival of animals and plants that live in the water. The more oxygen there is in the water, the healthier the ecosystem is. As the water temperature increases, the amount of oxygen that can dissolve in the water decreases. For example, fresh water at 0°C can contain up to 14.6 mg of oxygen per liter of water, but at 20°C, it can only hold 9.2 mg of oxygen per liter. Thus, seasonal water temperature (and dissolved oxygen) is an important indicator of habitat quality for many estuarine species.

The temperature of the water also tells us what types of plants and animals are able to live in the estuary. All plants and animals have a range of temperatures in which they thrive. If the water in the estuary is outside the normal seasonal temperature range in which most estuarine organisms can comfortably live, it is probably an indication that something is adversely affecting the health of the estuary.


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