Using Turbidity Measurements to Estimate Total Phosphorus and Sediment Flux in a Great Lakes Coastal Wetland

Abstract

Coastal wetlands around the Laurentian Great Lakes in North America have the potential to intercept surface water coming off of the landscape and reduce the amount of nutrients and sediment entering the lakes. However, extensive coastal wetland areas have been isolated behind dikes and thus have limited interaction with nutrient-rich waters that contribute to harmful algal blooms and other water-quality issues. In this study, we developed a method to use high-frequency measurements of discharge and turbidity to estimate sediment and total phosphorus retention in a hydrologically reconnected coastal wetland. We found sediment and total phosphorus retention to be episodic and highly related to fluctuations in water level. Low water levels in Lake Erie in late 2012 resulted in low retention in the wetland, but sediment and total phosphorus retention increased as water levels rose in the first half of 2013. Overall, the reconnected wetland was a sink for both total phosphorus and suspended sediment and locally reduced phosphorus loading rates to Lake Erie. Additional wetland reconnection projects have the potential to further reduce phosphorus and sediment loading rates, which could improve local water quality and ecosystem health.

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Acknowledgments

Financial support from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative allowed the research team to complete this project. We thank USFWS ONWR manager Jason Lewis for permission to access refuge property during this project and staff for assistance with field data collection. We appreciated the help of USGS staff and contractors, including Sean Green and Michael Eggleston who assisted with installation and maintenance of instrumentation. We also thank Justin Saarinen (New College of Florida) for his contributions to the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Restoration Assessment and input on this manuscript. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive proposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U. S. Government.

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Correspondence to Joseph J. Baustian.

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Baustian, J.J., Kowalski, K.P. & Czayka, A. Using Turbidity Measurements to Estimate Total Phosphorus and Sediment Flux in a Great Lakes Coastal Wetland. Wetlands 38, 1059–1065 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-018-1044-3

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Keywords

  • Wetland reconnection
  • Phosphorus retention
  • Sediment retention
  • Great Lakes restoration