Stratification and loading of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) in a tidally muted urban salt marsh

  • Karina K. JohnstonEmail author
  • John H. Dorsey
  • Jose A. Saez


Stratification and loading of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) were assessed in the main tidal channel of the Ballona Wetlands, an urban salt marsh receiving muted tidal flows, to (1) determine FIB concentration versus loading within the water column at differing tidal flows, (2) identify associations of FIB with other water quality parameters, and (3) compare wetland FIB concentrations to the adjacent estuary. Sampling was conducted four times during spring-tide events; samples were analyzed for FIB and turbidity (NTU) four times over a tidal cycle at pre-allocated depths, depending on the water level. Additional water quality parameters measured included temperature, salinity, oxygen, and pH. Loadings were calculated by integrating the stratified FIB concentrations with water column cross-sectional volumes corresponding to each depth. Enterococci and Escherichia coli were stratified both by concentration and loading, although these variables portrayed different patterns over a tidal cycle. Greatest concentrations occurred in surface to mid-strata levels, during flood tides when contaminated water flowed in from the estuary, and during ebb flows when sediments were suspended. Loading was greatest during flood flows and diminished during low tide periods. FIB concentrations within the estuary often were significantly greater than those within the wetland tide channel, supporting previous studies that the wetlands act as a sink for FIB. For public health water quality monitoring, these results indicate that more accurate estimates of FIB concentrations would be obtained by sampling a number of points within a water column rather than relying only on single surface samples.


Water quality Fecal indicator bacteria Stratification Loading Ballona Wetlands Salt marsh 



The authors would like to acknowledge the California State Coastal Conservancy, the Center for Santa Monica Bay Studies, and The Bay Foundation for funding and support and the Department of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science at Loyola Marymount University for laboratory resources. Thanks also to Ivan Medel, Elena Del Giudice-Tuttle, Charles Piechowski, and several student interns for helping to coordinate and implement the field and laboratory sampling and analyses. We could not have completed this project without you. We also thank Ken Schiff (Southern California Coastal Water Research Project) who provided valuable review comments on the initial manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karina K. Johnston
    • 1
    Email author
  • John H. Dorsey
    • 2
  • Jose A. Saez
    • 2
  1. 1.The Bay FoundationLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Loyola Marymount UniversityLos AngelesUSA

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