A linked physical and biological framework to assess biogeochemical dynamics in a shallow estuarine ecosystem

  • Buzzelli C
  • Wetzel R
  • Meyers M
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Abstract

the littoral zone of Chesapeake Bay contains a mosaic of shallow vegetated and nonvegetated habitats with biotic components that are sensitive to changes in biological and physical driving factors. Static and dynamic modelling frameworks provide an integrative way to study complex hydrodynamic and biogeochemical processes in linked estuarine habitats. In this study we describe a spatial simulation model developed and calibrated relative to a specific littoral zone, estuarine ecosystem. The model consisted of four distinct habitats that contained phytoplankton, sediment microalgae, Zostera marina (eelgrass, and Spartina alterniflora. There was tidal exchange of phytoplankton, particulate and dissolved organic carbon and dissolved inorganic nitrogen between the littoral zone ecosystem and the offshore channel. Physical exchange and biogeochemical transformations within the habitats determined water column concentrations and Z. marina and S. alterniflora biomass were within the variability of validation data and the predicted annual rates of net primary production were similar to measured rates. Phytoplankton accounted for 17%, sediment microalgae 46%, the Z. marina community 24% and S. alterniflora 13% the annual littoral zone primary production. The linked habitat model provided insights into producer, habitat and ecosystem carbon and nitrogen properties that might not have been evident with stand-alone models. Although it was an intra-ecosystem sink for particulate carbon, the seagrass habitat was a DOC source and responsible for over 30% of the littoral zone carbon and nitrogen primary production. The model predicted that the Goodwin Islands littoral zone was a sink of channel derived POC, but a source of DOC to the surrounding estuary. The framework created in this study of estuarine ecosystem dynamics is applicable to many different aquatic systems over a range of spatial and temporal scales.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Biogeochemistry
  • Chesapeake Bay
  • Ecosystems
  • Estuarine habitat
  • Models
  • Spartina
  • Virginia
  • Zostera

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Authors

  • C. P. Buzzelli

  • R. L. Wetzel

  • M. B. Meyers

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