Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



JGR Oceans





First Page



Accumulation and remineralization of surface-produced particulate organic matter (POM) in the water column and seabed link closely to hypoxia and the health of aquatic ecosystems. The POM retention time provides a key timescale to interpret biochemical reaction processes. In this study, we investigated the spatiotemporal variations in the vertical particulate age (VPA) of surface-produced POM, which is the mean time elapsed since the particulates last contact the surface, by incorporating major physical processes including sinking, resuspension, and deposition in the Chesapeake Bay. It was found that the vertical transport time for the particulates (i.e., VPA) is much longer than the dissolved counterparts as the former consists of new material from the surface and the resuspended aged material that has elongated resting on the seabed after deposition. The VPA is sensitive to settling velocity, especially in low-frequent resuspension environments, and varies over 2 orders of magnitude with settling velocity from 0 to 10 m/day. Slow-sinking material can remain in suspension and seldom settle to the seabed, thus mainly contribute to pelagic processes, while the fast-sinking material connects closely with benthic processes. The seasonality of VPA decreases as the settling velocity increases. No significant difference in VPA was found between wet and dry years, yet the episodic strong flood events entrain old materials from the depositional lateral shoals to increase VPA in the channel. The transport age bridges cross disciplinaries by providing the fourth-dimensional age information as a common currency to compare the physical transport timescale with the timescales for biochemical reactions.


doi: 10.1029/2021JC017592

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

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