, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 156–168

Seasonal distributions of suspended particulate material and dissolved nutrients in a coastal plain estuary

  • Larry G. Ward
  • Robert R. Twilley

DOI: 10.2307/1352127

Cite this article as:
Ward, L.G. & Twilley, R.R. Estuaries (1986) 9: 156. doi:10.2307/1352127


The temporal and spatial distributions of salinity, dissolved oxygen, suspended particulate material (SPM), and dissolved nutrients were determined during 1983 in the Choptank River, an estuarine tributary of Chesapeake Bay. During winter and spring freshets, the middle estuary was strongly stratified with changes in salinity of up to 5‰ occurring over 1 m depth intervals. Periodically, the lower estuary was stratified due to the intrusion of higher salinity water from the main channel of Chesapeake Bay. During summer this intrusion caused minimum oxygen and maximum NH4+ concentrations at the mouth of the Choptank River estuary. Highest concentrations of SPM, particulate carbon (PC), particulate nitrogen (PN), total nitrogen (TN), total phosphorous (TP) and dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) occurred in the upper estuary during the early spring freshet. In contrast, minimum soluble reactive phosphate (SRP) concentrations were highest in the upper estuary in summer when freshwater discharge was low. In spring, PC:PN ratios were >13, indicating a strong influence by allochthonous plant detritus on PC and PN concentrations. However, high concentrations of PC and PN in fall coincided with maximum chlorophyll a concentrations and PC:PN ratios were <8, indicating in situ productivity controlled PC and PN levels. During late spring and summer, DIN concentrations decreased from >100 to <10 μg-at l−1, resulting mainly from the nonconservative behavior of NO3, which dominated the DIN pool. Atomic ratios of both the inorganic and total forms of N and P exceeded 100 in spring, but by summer, ratios decreased to <5 and <15, respectively. The seasonal and spatial changes in both absolute concentrations and ratios of N and P reflect the strong influence of allochthonous inputs on nutrient distributions in spring, followed by the effects of internal processes in summer and fall.

Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Larry G. Ward
    • 1
  • Robert R. Twilley
    • 1
  1. 1.Horn Point Environmental LaboratoriesUniversity of Maryland Center for Environmental and Estuarine StudiesCambridge
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of Southwestern LouisianaLafayette

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