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Monitored and Modeled Correlations of Sediment and Nutrients with Chesapeake Bay Water Clarity

Published: October 01, 2013

This article analyzes the correlations of the observed and modeled light attenuation coefficient, Kd, with in situ total suspended solids (TSS) and chlorophyll-a concentrations in Chesapeake Bay (CB) tidal waters, and with sediment and nutrient loads from the Chesapeake watershed. Light attenuation is closely related to in situ TSS and chlorophyll-a concentrations, however, the strength of the correlation differs among the CB segments. There are distinct differences between saline and tidal fresh segments in the main Bay, but less distinction among saline and tidal fresh segments in the tidal tributaries. The correlation between Kd with sediment and nutrient loads is complicated by the lag times of TSS and the chlorophyll-a responses to reductions in nutrient and sediment loads from the watershed, and also due to the diverse load sources. Three sets of model sensitivity scenarios were performed with: (1) differential sediment and nutrient loads; (2) selective sediment source types; and (3) geographically isolated inputs. The model results yield similar findings as those based on observed data and provide information regarding the effect of sediment on specific water bodies. Based on the model results a method was developed to determine sediment and nutrient load reductions needed to achieve the water clarity standards of the CB segments.

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