, Volume 147, Issue 2, pp 179–197 | Cite as

Phosphorus, nitrogen and dissolved organic carbon fluxes from sediments in freshwater rivermouths entering Green Bay (Lake Michigan; USA)

  • James H. LarsonEmail author
  • William F. James
  • Faith A. Fitzpatrick
  • Paul C. Frost
  • Mary Anne Evans
  • Paul C. Reneau
  • Marguerite A. Xenopoulos


Transitional areas between ecosystem types are often active biogeochemically due to resource limitation changes. Lotic-to-lentic transitions in freshwaters appear active biogeochemically, but few studies have directly measured nutrient processing rates to assess whether processing within the rivermouth is important for load estimates or the local communities. We measured oxic fluxes of inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from sediments in two rivermouths of Green Bay (Lake Michigan, USA). Soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) flux was positive in most cases (overall mean 1.74 mg SRP m− 2 day− 1), as was ammonium (NH4) flux (40.6 mg NH4 m− 2 day− 1). Partial least square regression (PLSR) indicated a latent variable associated with both sediment [loosely bound phosphorus (P), iron bound P, organic content] and water column properties [temperature, DOC:dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) and DOC:SRP ratios (negatively)] that was moderately associated with variation in SRP flux. PLSR analysis also indicated several sediment characteristics were moderately related to NH4 flux, especially organic content, density (negative), and porosity. Flux of nitrates/nitrites (NOX) and DOC were positively associated with the water column concentrations of NOX and DOC and qualitative estimates of the labile, non-humic types of DOC. In early summer, water column NOX and DOC concentrations were high and labile DOC may have fueled denitrification, resulting in net flux into sediments of both NOX and DOC. By late summer, water column NOX and DOC were very low and both these constituents were fluxing out of sediments into the water column. Based on our estimates for the entire period from April through September, rivermouth sediments were a net source of SRP and DIN, with a DIN:SRP ratio of ~ 44 and a NH4:NOX > 1. We estimated that the sediments in the Fox rivermouth probably contributed a small proportion of the total Fox River load during the growing season 2016 (< 5%), but at times may have contributed as much as 14% of the daily load. Despite the small size of the Fox rivermouth (< 0.5% of the watershed area), these results indicate that at times sediments can contribute substantially to the overall delivery of nitrogen and phosphorus to the nearshore zone.


nitrogen phosphorus carbon Rivermouths Sediment nutrient flux Great Lakes 



Thanks to Enrika Hlavacek for assistance in creating Fig. 1. Thanks to Laura Hubbard for assistance in applying statistical models from Robertson et al. 2018 to the 2016 water year. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. This research was funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the U.S. Geological Survey Ecosystem Mission Area.

Supplementary material

10533_2020_635_MOESM1_ESM.docx (22 kb)
Supplementary Material 1 (DOCX 23 kb)
10533_2020_635_MOESM2_ESM.docx (496 kb)
Supplementary Material 2 (DOCX 496 kb)


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences CenterU.S. Geological SurveyLa CrosseUSA
  2. 2.Center for Limnological Research and Rehabilitation, Department of BiologyUniversity of Wisconsin-StoutMenomonieUSA
  3. 3.Upper Midwest Water Science CenterU.S. Geological SurveyMiddletonUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada
  5. 5.Great Lakes Science CenterU.S. Geological SurveyAnn ArborUSA

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