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

January 1, 1982

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.

Publication Year 1982
Title Nutrient exchange across the sediment-water interface in the Potomac River estuary
DOI 10.1016/0272-7714(82)90050-6
Authors E. Callender, Douglas E. Hammond
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Index ID 70011474
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse