Netherland Journal of Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 29, Issue 3–4, pp 245–255 | Cite as

Sediment geochemistry of phosphorus at two intertidal sites on the Great Ouse estuary, S.E. England

  • K. E. Prastka
  • T. D. Jickells
Nutrient Fluxes


The Great Ouse estuary in southern England is a macrotidal estuary with rather coarse sediment. Two intertidal sites were sampled five times over the year at low tide. The sediments are suboxic, organic poor (approximately 1.5% organic carbon). They are composed mainly of detrital quartz and feldspar with some calcite. At both sites the total phosphorus in the sediments ranges from 0.03 – 0.12% dry weight and total iron from 0.42–1.22% dry weight. Of the total phosphorus 20% is organic and 80% is inorganic of which 10% is water extractable. Total iron and phosphorus correlate well and the ratio of iron:phosphorus is 8.4 which is similar to that found when phosphorus is adsorbed by iron oxyhydroxides, suggesting that iron oxyhydroxides are an important substrate for phosphorus sorption in these sediments. Fluxes of phosphorus from the sediment to the overlying water, measured in cores incubated in the laboratory, are low and show no seasonality. The sodium concentration in the porewaters at both sites is variable suggesting that there is movement of water through the sediment to depths of at least 20 cm. This is borne out by variable phosphorus, iron and phosphorus concentrations in the porewaters and ill defined redox zones in the sediments.


phosphorus sediments estuary 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. ASPILA, K.L., H. AGEMAIN and A.S.Y. CHAU, 1976. A semi-automatic method for the determination of inorganic, organic and total phosphorus in sediments. Analyst, 101: 187–197. BERNER, R.A., 1977. Stoichiometric models for nutrient regeneration in anoxic sediments. Limnol. Oceanogr., 22: 781–786.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. BERNER, R.A., 1980. Early Diagenesis: A theoretical Approach, Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. BOSTRÖM, B., J.M. ANDERSEN, S. FLEISHER and M. JANSSON, 1988. Exchange of phosphorus across the sediment-water interface. Hydrobiologia, 170: 229–244.Google Scholar
  4. BRAY, J.T., O.P. BRICKER and B.N. TROUP, 1973. Phosphate in interstitial waters of Anoxic Sediments: Oxidation Effects during Sampling Procedure. Science 180: 1362–1364.Google Scholar
  5. CARPENTER, P.D., and J.D. SMITH, 1984. Effect of pH, iron and humic acid on the estuarine behaviour of phosphate. Environ. Technol. Lett., 6: 65–72.Google Scholar
  6. CHASE, E.M. and J.D. SMITH, 1980. Phosphorus in suspended sediments of the Amazon River. Estuar. Coast. Mar. Sci., 11: 383–391.Google Scholar
  7. DANEN-LOUWERSE, H., L. LIJKLEMA and M. COENRAATS, 1993. Iron content of sediment and phosphate adsorption properties. Hydrobiologia, 253: 311–317.Google Scholar
  8. DE JONGE, V.N., M.M. ENGELKES and J.F. BAKKER, 1993. Bio-availability of phosphorus in sediments of western Dutch Wadden Sea. Hydrobiologia, 253: 151–163.Google Scholar
  9. DE JONGE, V.N. and L.A. VILLERIUS, 1989. Possible role of carbonate dissolution in estuarine phosphate dynamics. Limnol. Oceanogr., 34: 332–340.Google Scholar
  10. FICHEZ, R., P. DENNIS, M.F. FONTAINE, and T.J. JICKELLS, 1993. Isotopic and biochemical composition of particulate organic matter in a shallow water estuary (Great Ouse, North Sea, England). Mar. Chem., 43: 263–276.Google Scholar
  11. FOX, L.E., 1989. A model for inorganic control of phosphate concentrations in river waters. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 53: 417–428.Google Scholar
  12. FOX, L.E., 1990. Geochemistry of dissolved phosphorus in the Sepik river and estuary, Papua New Guines. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 54: 1019–1024.Google Scholar
  13. FOX, L.E., 1991. Phosphorus chemistry in the tidal Hudson river. Geochem. Cosmochim. Acta, 55: 1529–1538.Google Scholar
  14. FOX, L.E., S. SAGER and S.C. WOFSY, 1985. Factors controlling the concentrations of soluble phosphorus in the Amazon estuary. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 30: 826–832.Google Scholar
  15. FOX, L.E., S. SAGER and S.C. WOFSY, 1986. The chemical control of soluble phosphorus in the Amazon estuary. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 50: 783–794.Google Scholar
  16. FROELICH, P.N., 1988. Kinetic control of dissolved phosphate in natural rivers and estuaries: A primer on the phosphate buffer mecha nism. Limnol. Oceanogr., 33: 649–669.Google Scholar
  17. GÄCHTER, R., J.S. MEYER and A. MARES, 1988. Contribution of bacteria to release and fixation of phosphorus in lake sediments. Limnol. Oceanogr., 33: 1542–1558.Google Scholar
  18. KAUL, W.L. and P.N. FROELICH, 1984. Modelling estuarine nutrient geochemistry in a simple system. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 48: 1417–1433.Google Scholar
  19. KOROLEFF, F., 1976. Determination of Nutrients. In: K. Grasskoff, M. Ehrhardt and K. Kremling, Eds., Methods of Seawater Analysis, p. 117–156. Verlag Chemie, Weinheim.Google Scholar
  20. KROM, M.D. and R.A. BERNER, 1980. Adsorption of phosphate in anoxic marine sediments. Limnol. Oceanogr., 25: 797–806.Google Scholar
  21. LEBO, L.E. and J.H. SHARP, 1992. Modeling phosphorus cycling in a well-mixed coastal plain estuary. Estuar. Coast. Mar. Sci., 35: 235–252.Google Scholar
  22. LIJKLEMA, L. 1977. The role of iron in the exchange of phosphate between water and sediments. In: H.L. Golterman, Ed., Interactions between sediments and freshwater, p. 313–317 Junk, The Hague.Google Scholar
  23. MURPHY, J. and J.P. RILEY, 1962. A modified single solution method for the determination of phosphorus in natural waters. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 27: 31–36.Google Scholar
  24. POMEROY, L.R., E.E. SMITH and C.M. GRANT, 1965. The exchange of phosphate between estuarine water and sediments. Limnol. Oceanogr., 10: 167–172.Google Scholar
  25. PRASTKA, K.E. and S.J. MALCOLM, 1994. Particulate phosphorus in the Humber estuary. Neth. J. Aquat. Ecol., 28: 397–403.Google Scholar
  26. RAO, J.L. and R.A. BERNER, 1993. Phosphorus dynamics in the Amazon river and estuary. Chem. Geol., 107: 397–400.Google Scholar
  27. RUTTENBERG, K.C. 1992. Development of a sequential technique for different forms of phosphorus in marine sediment. Limnol. Oceanogr., 37: 1460–1468.Google Scholar
  28. SAAGER, P.M., J.P. SWEERTS and H.J. ELLERMEIJER, 1990. A simple pore-water sampler for coarse sandy sediments of low porosity. Limnol. Oceanogr., 35: 747–751.Google Scholar
  29. VAN RAAPHORST, W. and H.T. KLOOSTERHUIS, 1994. Phosphate sorption in superficial intertidal sediments. Mar. Chem., 48: 1–16.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. E. Prastka
    • 1
  • T. D. Jickells
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

Personalised recommendations