Plum Island Long-Term Ecological Research Site


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How does benthic use and recycling of nutrients and organic matter vary with changes in water fluxes and the quality and quantity of organic matter inputs?

The role of sediments in an estuarine system
The benthos is a critical component of shallow water estuarine and coastal marine ecosystems. On a global basis 30-50% of primary production occurs in the continental margin and much settles to the bottom of coastal systems. The coastal zone is a conduit for all organic matter washed from land and benthic sediments are the site where most of this material is deposited (Smith and Hollibaugh 1993). The extent to which organic matter reaching the bottom is reoxidized, denitrified or buried affects the productivity and quality of the overlying water.

Sediments play an important role in organic matter degradation and nutrient recycling in aquatic ecosystems. During the decomposition of organic matter, oxygen and other terminal electron acceptors are consumed and inorganic nutrients are remineralized. With up to 75% of phytoplankton nutrient requirements supplied from the benthos (Billen 1978, Nixon 1981), spatial and temporal patterns of benthic nutrient regeneration may be important in regulating spatial and temporal patterns of productivity in overlying water.

Benthic sampling site map
Rates of benthic metabolism and nutrient cycling in the Parker and Rowley Rivers of the Plum Island Sound estuary.
Sediment porewater nutrient, sulfide, pH, and alkalinity, sediment redox, and bulk sediment carbon, nitrogen, chlorophyll a and phaeopigments.
Free and exchangeable ammonium in sediments of the Parker River estuary
Sediment porewater nutrients, sulfide, pH, and alkalinity in the Parker and Rowley River, Massachusetts
Sediment redox potential in the Parker and Rowley River, Massachusetts
Bulk carbon, nitrogen, porosity, chlorophyll a and phaeopigments in sediments of the Parker and Rowley Rivers, Newbury and Rowley, Massachusetts
Sediment organic carbon content at four sites in the Parker River Plum Island Sound estuarine system.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement #OCE-9726921, #OCE-0423565, #OCE-1058747, #OCE-1238212. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.