Nutrient exchange across the sediment-water interface in the Potomac River estuary

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
By:  and 



The flux of ammonia, phosphate, silica and radon-222 from Potomac tidal river and estuary sediments is controlled by processes occurring at the sediment-water interface and within surficial sediment. Calculated diffusive fluxes range between 0·6 and 6·5 mmol m−2 day−1 for ammonia, 0·020 and 0·30 mmol m−2 day−1 for phosphate, and 1·3 and 3·8 mmol m−2 day−1 for silica. Measured in situ fluxes range between 1 and 21 mmol m−2 day−1 for ammonia, 0·1 and 2·0 mmol m−2 day−1 for phosphate, and 2 and 19 mmol m−2 day−1 for silica. The ratio of in situ fluxes to diffusive fluxes (flux enhancement) varied between 1·6 and 5·2 in the tidal river, between 2·0 and 20 in the transition zone, and from 1·3 to 5·1 in the lower estuary. The large flux enhancements from transition zone sediments are attributed to macrofaunal irrigation. Nutrient flux enhancements are correlated with radon flux enhancements, suggesting that fluxes may originate from a common region and that nutrients are regenerated within the upper 10–20 cm of the sediment column.

The low fluxes of phosphate from tidal viver sediments reflect the control benthic sediment exerts on phosphorus through sorption by sedimentary iron oxyhydroxides. In the tidal river, benthic fluxes of ammonia and phosphate equal one-half and one-third of the nutrient input of the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant. In the tidal Potomac River, benthic sediment regeneration supplies a significant fraction of the nutrients utilized by primary producers in the water column during the summer months.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Nutrient exchange across the sediment-water interface in the Potomac River estuary
Series title Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
DOI 10.1016/0272-7714(82)90050-6
Volume 15
Issue 4
Year Published 1982
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Description 19 p.
First page 395
Last page 413
Country United States
State Maryland, Virginia
Other Geospatial Potomac River Estuary
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