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Title: Extreme rainfall events pulse substantial nutrients and sediments from terrestrial to nearshore coastal communities: a case study from French Polynesia

Rainfall mobilizes and transports anthropogenic sources of sediments and nutrients from terrestrial to coastal marine ecosystems, and episodic but extreme rainfall may drive high fluxes to marine communities. Between January 13thand January 22nd, 2017, the South Pacific Island of Moorea, French Polynesia experienced an extreme rainfall event. ~57 cm of rain was delivered over a 10-day storm. We quantified pulsed sediments and nutrients transported to nearshore reefs. We determined the spatial and temporal extent of the sediment pulse with estimates of water transparency. We quantified pulsed nutrients at multiple spatial and temporal scales. To determine if terrestrial nutrients were incorporated into the benthic community, we collected macroalgae over 10 days following the storm and measured tissue nutrient concentrations and δN15. Pulsed sediments impacted water clarity for 6 days following the storm, with greatest impacts closest to the river mouth. Nitrite +nitrate concentrations were >100 times the average while phosphate was >25 times average. Macroalgal tissue nutrients were elevated, and δN15implicates sewage as the source, demonstrating transported nutrients were transferred to producer communities. Future climate change predictions suggest extreme rainfall will become more common in this system, necessitating research on these pulses and their ramifications on marine communities.

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Scientific Reports
Nature Publishing Group
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National Science Foundation
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