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Bank‐derived material dominates fluvial sediment in a suburban Chesapeake Bay watershed

November 2, 2018

Excess fine sediment is a leading cause of ecological degradation within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. To effectively target sediment mitigation measures, it is necessary to identify and quantify the delivery of sediment sources to local waterbodies.

This study examines the contributions of sediment sources within Upper Difficult Run, a suburbanized watershed in Fairfax County, Virginia. A source sediment library was constructed from stream banks, forest soils, and road dust. Target sediments were collected from fine channel deposits and suspended sediment during 16 storm events from 2008 to 2012. Apportionment of targets to sources was performed using Sed_SAT, a publicly available toolkit for sediment fingerprinting.

Bed sediment was dominated by stream bank material (mean: 98%), with minor contributions from forests (2%). Suspended fine sediments were also dominated by stream banks (suspended sediment concentration‐weighted mean: 91%), with minor contributions from roads (8%) and forests (<1%). Stream banks dominated at all discharges, and on the rising limb and at peak flow, sediment concentrations increased due to bank material rather than surface erosion.

Sediment budget data indicated that direct bank erosion was insufficient to account for the suspended load derived from stream banks. However, bank‐derived sediment re‐mobilized from in‐channel storage could account for this difference and, combined, resulted in a sediment delivery ratio of 0.847 for all bank‐derived sediments.

Results demonstrate that stream bank erosion is responsible for the majority of fine sediment in this suburban watershed of the Chesapeake Bay drainage area. Thus, management actions to control upland sources of sediment may have limited effect on the sediment conditions of Upper Difficult Run, whereas efforts focusing on bank stabilization, channel restoration, and/or stormwater management to reduce bank erosion may improve the ecological condition of these waterbodies.

Publication Year 2018
Title Bank‐derived material dominates fluvial sediment in a suburban Chesapeake Bay watershed
DOI 10.1002/rra.3325
Authors Matt J. Cashman, Allen Gellis, Lillian Gorman Sanisaca, Gregory B. Noe, Vanessa Cogliandro, Anna Baker
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title River Research and Applications
Index ID 70200806
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Maryland Water Science Center