Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 492–500 | Cite as

Increased Terrestrial to Ocean Sediment and Carbon Fluxes in the Northern Chesapeake Bay Associated With Twentieth Century Land Alteration

  • Casey Saenger
  • Thomas M. Cronin
  • Debra Willard
  • Jeffrey Halka
  • Randy Kerhin
Article

Abstract

We calculated Chesapeake Bay (CB) sediment and carbon fluxes before and after major anthropogenic land clearance using robust monitoring, modeling and sedimentary data. Four distinct fluxes in the estuarine system were considered including (1) the flux of eroded material from the watershed to streams, (2) the flux of suspended sediment at river fall lines, (3) the burial flux in tributary sediments, and (4) the burial flux in main CB sediments. The sedimentary maximum in Ambrosia (ragweed) pollen marked peak land clearance (~1900 a.d.). Rivers feeding CB had a total organic carbon (TOC)/total suspended solids of 0.24 ± 0.12, and we used this observation to calculate TOC fluxes from sediment fluxes. Sediment and carbon fluxes increased by 138–269% across all four regions after land clearance. Our results demonstrate that sediment delivery to CB is subject to significant lags and that excess post-land clearance sediment loads have not reached the ocean. Post-land clearance increases in erosional flux from watersheds, and burial in estuaries are important processes that must be considered to calculate accurate global sediment and carbon budgets.

Keywords

Chesapeake Bay Land-use Sediment flux Carbon flux Estuary Carbon cycle 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Sid Mitra, John Milliman, Chris Swezey, John Rayburn, Michael Langland, and an anonymous reviewer for their insights and comments. Thanks also to Lewis Linker for assistance with the CB Community Watershed Model. Funding for C.S. was provided by a National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellowship.

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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Casey Saenger
    • 1
  • Thomas M. Cronin
    • 2
  • Debra Willard
    • 2
  • Jeffrey Halka
    • 3
  • Randy Kerhin
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Geology and GeophysicsMIT/WHOI Joint Program in OceanographyWoods HoleUSA
  2. 2.US Geological SurveyRestonUSA
  3. 3.Maryland Geological SurveyBaltimoreUSA

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