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Title: Organic Matter Remineralization Predominates Phosphorus Cycling in the Mid-Bay Sediments in the Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay, the largest and most productive estuary in the US, suffers from varying degrees of water quality issues fueled by both point and non–point source nutrient sources. Restoration of the bay is complicated by the multitude of nutrient sources, their variable inputs and hydrological conditions, and complex interacting factors including climate forcing. These complexities not only restrict formulation of effective restoration plans but also open up debates on accountability issues with nutrient loading. A detailed understanding of sediment phosphorus (P) dynamics enables one to identify the exchange of dissolved constituents across the sediment- water interface and aid to better constrain mechanisms and processes controlling the coupling between the sediments and the overlying waters. Here we used phosphate oxygen isotope ratios (δ18Op) in concert with sediment chemistry, XRD, and Mössbauer spectroscopy on the sediment retrieved from an organic rich, sulfidic site in the meso-haline portion of the mid-bay to identify sources and pathway of sedimentary P cycling and to infer potential feedback effect on bottom water hypoxia and surface water eutrophication. Isotope data indicate that the regeneration of inorganic P from organic matter degradation (remineralization) is the predominant, if not sole, pathway for authigenic P precipitation in the mid-baymore » sediments. We interpret that the excess inorganic P generated by remineralization should have overwhelmed any bottom-water and/or pore-water P derived from other sources or biogeochemical processes and exceeded saturation with respect to authigenic P precipitation. It is the first research that identifies the predominance of remineralization pathway against remobilization (coupled Fe-P cycling) pathway in the Chesapeake Bay. Therefore, these results are expected to have significant implications for the current understanding of P cycling and benthic-pelagic coupling in the bay, particularly on the source and pathway of P that sustains hypoxia and supports phytoplankton growth in the surface water.« less
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Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
44685; KP1704020
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Environmental Science & Technology, 49(10):5887-5896
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US), Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory