Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Estuaries and Coasts





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Sediment processes, including resuspension and transport, affect water quality in estuaries by altering light attenuation, primary productivity, and organic matter remineralization, which then influence oxygen and nitrogen dynamics. The relative importance of these processes on oxygen and nitrogen dynamics varies in space and time due to multiple factors and is difficult to measure, however, motivating a modeling approach to quantify how sediment resuspension and transport affect estuarine biogeochemistry. Results from a coupled hydrodynamic-sediment transport-biogeochemical model of the Chesapeake Bay for the summers of 2002 and 2003 showed that resuspension increased light attenuation, especially in the northernmost portion of the Bay, shifting primary production downstream. Resuspension also increased remineralization in the central Bay, which experienced larger organic matter concentrations due to the downstream shift in primary productivity and estuarine circulation. As a result, oxygen decreased and ammonium increased throughout the Bay in the bottom portion of the water column, due to reduced photosynthesis in the northernmost portion of the Bay and increased remineralization in the central Bay. Averaged over the channel, resuspension decreased oxygen by similar to 25% and increased ammonium by similar to 50% for the bottom water column. Changes due to resuspension were of the same order of magnitude as, and generally exceeded, short-term variations within individual summers, as well as interannual variability between 2002 and 2003, which were wet and dry years, respectively. Our results quantify the degree to which sediment resuspension and transport affect biogeochemistry, and provide insight into how coastal systems may respond to management efforts and environmental changes.

Model datasets are available through W&M ScholarWorks :


DOI: 10.1007/s12237-020-00763-8


Chesapeake Bay numerical model; Sediment transport; Primary production; Remineralization; Biogeochemistry; Hypoxia

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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