Coastal river plumes represent one of the final stages of material transport across the land-sea interface. Most studies, however have focused on the behavior of medium to large sized river plumes of coastal-shelf waters, whereas small sized river plumes acting within estuaries have been neglected. This study addressed the behavior of suspended particulate matter (SPM), dissolved inorganic nutrients (DIN, DIP and DSi) and Chlorophyll a (Chl. a) of a small sized river plume derived from the closely lain São Francisco and Guandú river channels, set in the Sepetiba Bay estuary, SE-Brazil. Two surface water sampling campaigns were conducted, one in January 2003 (humid summer conditions) and the other in June 2003 (dry winter conditions). On both occasions, the plumes dispersed in a SE direction towards the inner portion of the bay. The "wet" event plume was more turbid, nutrient rich and dispersed beyond nearshore waters, whereas the "dry" event plume proliferated as a narrow, less turbid and more nutrient poor film alongshore. Both exhibited a marked degree of patchiness, induced by the differential input of materials from the river sources and resuspension processes from the shallow nearshore bottom. The São Francisco river channel was the main source of freshwater, SPM and nutrients, except for ammonia (NH4+-N) derived from domestic effluents of the Guandú river. The mesohaline portion of the estuarine mixing zone of the plumes behaved as a slight source for SPM, DSi and DIP, due to bottom resuspension processes. N:P molar ratios ranged between 80:1 and 20:1 along the estuarine gradient, being higher in the summer than in the winter event, indicating that DIP was the potential nutrient limiting primary production. Chl. a concentrations increased at the outer premises of the plume, suggesting that the short residence times and turbidity of the plume waters, hampered primary production nearshore, particularly during the summer occasion. The small sized plume lacked the spatial decoupling between the estuarine mixing and turbidity zones, generally observed in larger sized coastal-shelf plumes.
A extensão, forma e as concentrações da matéria das plumas de pequena escala geradas pelos canais dos rios São Francisco e Guandu, se diferenciaram consideravelmente entre os eventos de alta e baixa descarga. A pluma durante o evento de alta descarga apresentou maior potencial de fertilização da parte central interna da Baía de Sepetiba, enquanto a pluma de baixa descarga fluvial reteve materiais próximo da costa em área rasa. As plumas foram impactadas por múltiplas fontes de materiais, incluindo o aporte lateral fluvial e os sedimentos do fundo. A baixa profundidade da área foi responsável pelo acoplamento nítido da água e do sedimento. O bombeamento da maré com, provavelmente, o atrito no fundo gerado pelo fluxo fluvial, foram responsáveis pela ressuspensão de matéria em suspensão e a liberação de nutrientes dos sedimentos superficiais. As plumas apresentaram um desacoplamento nítido entre as zonas de turbidez e a clorofila, e um acoplamento entre as zonas de turbidez e de mistura estuarina, geralmente não observado em plumas de médio a grande porte que se proliferam na costa e plataforma continental.