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Benthic oxygen demand in three former salt ponds adjacent to south San Francisco Bay, California

September 29, 2009

Sampling trips were coordinated in the second half of 2008 to examine the interstitial water in the sediment and the overlying bottom waters of three shallow (average depth <1 meter) ponds adjacent to the southern reach of San Francisco Bay (herein referred to as South Bay), which were previously used in commercial salt production. In recent years, the ponds were modified for wetland restoration and management as part of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. A pore-water profiler, modified for dissolved-oxygen sampling, was used to obtain the first centimeter-scale estimates of the vertical concentration gradients for diffusive-flux determinations. This study, a collaboration between scientists from two disciplines within the U.S. Geological Survey (Water Resources and Biological Resources), provides information necessary for developing and refining pond-management strategies and supports efforts to monitor changes in fish and wildlife assemblages associated with the habitat-restoration program.

Between August 27 and September 30, 2008, pore-water profilers were successfully deployed in the South Bay salt ponds A16, A14, and A3W (fig. 1; fig. 2; table1), measuring the concentration gradient of dissolved oxygen near the sediment-water interface. In each pond, profilers were deployed in triplicate at two sites: a shallow site (< 1 meter) and a deep site (> 2 meters). The water column at all deployment sites was monitored with dataloggers for ancillary water-quality parameters (including dissolved oxygen, salinity, specific conductance, temperature, and pH) to facilitate the interpretation of benthic-flux results.

Calculated diffusive benthic flux of dissolved (0.2-micron filtered) oxygen was consistently negative (that is, drawn from the water column into the sediment) and ranged between -0.5 x 10-6 and -37 x 10-6 micromoles per square centimeter per second (site averages depicted in table 2). Assuming pond areas of 1.0, 1.4, and 2.3 square kilometers for ponds A16, A14, and A3W, respectively, this converts to an oxygen mass flux into the ponds' sediment ranging from -1 to -72 kilograms per day. Diffusive oxygen flux into the benthos (listed as negative) was lowest in pond A14 (-0.5 x 10-6 to -1.8 x 10-6 micromoles per square centimeter per second) compared with diffusive flux estimates for ponds A16 and A3W (site averages -26 x 10-6 to -35 x 10-6 and -34 x 10-6 to -37 x 10-6 micromoles per square centimeter per second, respectively). These initial diffusive-flux estimates are of the order of magnitude of those measured in the South Bay using core-incubation experiments (Topping and others, 2004), which include bioturbation and bioirrigation effects. Estimates of benthic oxygen demand reported herein, based on molecular diffusion, serve as conservative estimates of benthic flux because solute transport across the sediment-water interface can be enhanced by multidisciplinary processes including bioturbation, bioirrigation, ground-water advection, and wind resuspension (Kuwabara and others, 2009).

Publication Year 2009
Title Benthic oxygen demand in three former salt ponds adjacent to south San Francisco Bay, California
DOI 10.3133/ofr20091180
Authors Brent R. Topping, James S. Kuwabara, Nicole D. Athearn, John Y. Takekawa, Francis Parcheso, Kathleen D. Henderson, Sara Piotter
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2009-1180
Index ID ofr20091180
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center; Toxic Substances Hydrology Program