Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Although rivers are the primary source of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) inputs to the Chesapeake Bay, direct atmospheric DIN deposition and coastal DIN concentrations on the continental shelf can also significantly influence hypoxia; however, the relative impact of these additional sources of DIN on Chesapeake Bay hypoxia has not previously been quantified. In this study, the estuarine‐carbon‐biogeochemistry model embedded in the Regional‐Ocean‐Modeling‐System (ChesROMS‐ECB) is used to examine the relative impact of these three DIN sources. Model simulations highlight that DIN from the atmosphere has roughly the same impact on hypoxia as the same gram‐for‐gram change in riverine DIN loading, although their spatial and temporal distributions are distinct. DIN concentrations on the continental shelf have a similar overall impact on hypoxia as DIN from the atmosphere (~0.2 mg L−1); however, atmospheric DIN impacts dissolved oxygen (DO) primarily via the decomposition of autochthonous organic matter, whereas coastal DIN concentrations primarily impact DO via the decomposition of allochthonous organic matter entering the Bay mouth from the shelf. The impacts of atmospheric DIN deposition and coastal DIN concentrations on hypoxia are greatest in summer and occur farther downstream (southern mesohaline) in wet years than in dry years (northern mesohaline). Integrated analyses of the relative contributions of all three DIN sources on summer bottom DO indicate that impacts of atmospheric deposition are largest in the eastern mesohaline shoals, riverine DIN has dominant impacts in the largest tributaries and the oligohaline Bay, while coastal DIN concentrations are most influential in the polyhaline region.
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Da, Fei; Friedrichs, Marjorie A.M.; and St-Laurent, Pierre, Impacts of Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition and Coastal Nitrogen Fluxes on Oxygen Concentrations in Chesapeake Bay (2018). JGR Oceans, 123(7), 5004-5025.