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Physical and biogeochemical controls on light attenuation in a eutrophic, back-barrier estuary

January 1, 2014

Light attenuation is a critical parameter governing the ecological function of shallow estuaries. In these systems primary production is often dominated by benthic macroalgae and seagrass; thus light penetration to the bed is of primary importance. We quantified light attenuation in three seagrass meadows in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey, a shallow eutrophic back-barrier estuary; two of the sites were located within designated Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs). We sequentially deployed instrumentation measuring photosynthetically active radiation, chlorophyll-a (chl-a) fluorescence, dissolved organic matter fluorescence (fDOM; a proxy for colored DOM absorbance), turbidity, pressure, and water velocity at 10 min intervals over three week periods at each site. At the southernmost site, where sediment availability was highest, light attenuation was highest and dominated by turbidity and to a lesser extent chl-a and CDOM. At the central site, chl-a dominated followed by turbidity and CDOM, and at the northernmost site turbidity and CDOM contributed equally to light attenuation. At a given site, the temporal variability of light attenuation exceeded the difference in median light attenuation at the three sites, indicating the need for continuous high-temporal resolution measurements. Vessel wakes, anecdotally implicated in increasing sediment resuspension, did not contribute to local resuspension within the seagrass beds, though frequent vessel wakes were observed in the channels. With regards to light attenuation and water clarity, physical and biogeochemical variables appear to outweigh any regulation of boat traffic within the ESAs.

Publication Year 2014
Title Physical and biogeochemical controls on light attenuation in a eutrophic, back-barrier estuary
DOI 10.5194/bgd-11-12183-2014
Authors Neil K. Ganju, Jennifer L. Miselis, Alfredo L. Aretxabaleta
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biogeosciences
Index ID 70121031
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center