Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 2580–2593 | Cite as

Composition and settling properties of suspended particulate matter in estuaries of the Chesapeake Bay and Baltic Sea regions

  • Paul A. BukaveckasEmail author
  • Marija Katarzyte
  • Anne Schlegel
  • Renalda Spuriene
  • Todd Egerton
  • Diana Vaiciute
Sediments, Sec 2 • Physical and Biogeochemical Processes • Research Article



Our goal was to understand how differences in source material (allochthonous vs. autochthonous) and phytoplankton communities (diatoms vs. cyanobacteria) influence composition and settling properties of suspended particulate matter.

Materials and methods

We characterized the composition and settling properties of suspended particulate matter in two systems—one which has a high hydrologic loading factor (watershed to surface area ratio), and a diatom-dominated phytoplankton community (James River Estuary, USA), and a second, where hydrologic inputs are proportionally smaller, and the summer phytoplankton community is  dominated by cyanobacteria (Curonian Lagoon, Lithuania).

Results and discussion

In the James, we found that TSS concentrations were positively related to discharge, whereas POC concentrations were negatively correlated with discharge and positively correlated with Chl-a. We infer that suspended particulate matter in this system was largely derived from allochthonous inputs, but that the organic matter fraction was derived from autochthonous production. In the Curonian Lagoon, TSS concentrations were correlated with Chl-a, but not discharge, indicating that suspended particulate matter was largely of autochthonous origin. In the James, the proportion of settleable materials was greater during high TSS concentrations, indicating that high discharge events delivered heavier particulates. In the Curonian Lagoon, we observed a seasonal decline in settling rates associated with the shift from mixed (diatoms and chlorophytes) to cyanobacteria-dominated phytoplankton, which we attribute to the presence of positively buoyant cyanobacteria.


We found that a comparative approach yielded useful insights regarding sources, composition, and settling properties of suspended particulate matter in two estuaries that differ in hydrologic loading and phytoplankton community composition. Our findings suggest that the presence of positively buoyant cyanobacteria favors export losses of particulate C, N, and P to marine waters over retention through sedimentation in transitional zones.


Baltic Sea Chesapeake Bay Cyanobacteria Settling rates Suspended sediment 



This paper is dedicated to Prof. Saulius Gulbinskas, a valued member of the Klaipeda research group, whose research efforts informed our understanding of sedimentation processes in the Curonian Lagoon. PAB is grateful to the US Fulbright Commission for their support of his research in Lithuania.


  1. Alber M (2000) Settleable and non-settleable suspended sediments in the Ogeechee River estuary, Georgia, USA. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 50:805–816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bienfang PK (1981) SETCOL—a technologically simple and reliable method for measuring phytoplankton sinking rates. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 38:1289–1294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baines SB, Pace ML (1994) Relationships between suspended particulate matter and sinking flux along a trophic gradient and implications for the fate of planktonic primary production. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 51:25–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bukaveckas PA, Barry LE, Beckwith MJ, David V, Lederer B (2011a) Factors determining the location of the chlorophyll maximum and the fate of algal production within the tidal freshwater James River. Estuar Coasts 34:569–582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bukaveckas PA, Macdonald A, Aufdenkampe AK, Chick JH, Havel JE, Schultz RE, Angradi T, Bolgrien DW, Jicha TM, Taylor D (2011b) Phytoplankton abundance and contributions to suspended particulate matter in the Ohio, upper Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Aquat Sci 73:419–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bukaveckas PA, Isenberg WN (2013) Loading, transformation and retention of nitrogen and phosphorus in the tidal freshwater James River (Virginia). Estuar Coasts 36:1219–1236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bukaveckas PA, Lesutiene J, Gasiunaite ZR, Lozys L, Olenina I, Pilkaityte R, Putys Z, Tassone S, Wood JD (2017) Microcystin in aquatic food webs of the Baltic and Chesapeake Bay regions. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 191:50–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bukaveckas PA, Beck M, Devore D, Lee WM (2018a) Climate variability and its role in regulating C, N and P retention in the James River estuary. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 205:161–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bukaveckas PA, Franklin RB, Tassone S, Trache B, Egerton TA (2018b) Cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins at the river-estuarine transition. Harmful Algae 76:11–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Butman D, Stackpoole S, Stets EG, McDonald CP, Clow DW, Striegl RG (2016) Aquatic carbon cycling in the conterminous United States and implications for terrestrial carbon accounting. P Natl Acad Sci USA 113:58–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carignan R, Blais AM, Vis C (1998) Measurement of primary production and community respiration in oligotrophic lakes using the Winkler method. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 55:1078–1098CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cerco CF, Kim SC, Noel MR (2013) Management modeling of suspended solids in the Chesapeake Bay, USA. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 116:87–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Daunys D, Zemlys P, Olenin S, Zaiko A, Ferrarin C (2006) Impact of the zebra mussel Dreissena polymorpha invasion on the budget of suspended material in a shallow lagoon ecosystem. Helgoland Mar Res 60:113–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Egerton TA, Morse RE, Marshall HG, Mulholland MR (2014) Emergence of algal blooms: the effects of short-term variability in water quality on phytoplankton abundance, diversity, and community composition in a tidal estuary. Microorganisms 2:33–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Elmgren R, Ejdung G, Ankar S (2001) Intraspecific food competition in the deposit-feeding benthic amphipod Monoporeia affinis—a laboratory study. Marine Ecol Prog Ser 210:185–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Etcheber H, Taillez A, Abril G, Garnier J, Servais P, Moatar F, Commarieu MV (2007) Particulate organic carbon in the estuarine turbidity maxima of the Gironde, Loire and seine estuaries: origin and lability. Hydrobiologia 588:245–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ferguson A, Eyre B, Gay J (2003) Organic matter and benthic metabolism in euphotic sediments along shallow sub-tropical estuaries, northern New South Wales, Australia. Aquat Microb Ecol 33:137–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fitzsimons MF, Lohan MC, Tappin AD, Millward GE (2011) Chapter 4.04: the role of suspended particles in estuarine and coastal biogeochemistry. In: Wolanski E, McLusky DS (eds) Treatise on estuarine and coastal science. Academic Press, Waltham, pp 71–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fuchs A, Selmeczy GB, Kasprzak P, Padisak J, Casper P (2016) Coincidence of sedimentation peaks with diatom blooms, wind, and calcite precipitation measured in high resolution by a multi-trap. Hydrobiologia 763:329–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gasiūnaitė ZR, Cardoso AC, Heiskanen AS, Henriksen P, Kauppila P, Olenina I, Pilkaityte R, Purina L, Razinkovas A, Sagert S (2005) Seasonality of coastal phytoplankton in the Baltic Sea: influence of salinity and eutrophication. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 65:239–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Graf G, Bengtsson W, Diesner U, Schulz R, Theede H (1982) Benthic response to sedimentation of a spring phytoplankton bloom: process and budget. Mar Biol 67:201–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hagy JD, Boynton WR, Jasinski D (2005) Modeling phytoplankton deposition to Chesapeake Bay sediments during winter–spring: interannual variability in relation to river flow. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 62:25–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hartzell JL, Jordan TE, Cornwell JC (2017) Phosphorus sequestration in sediments along the salinity gradients of Chesapeake Bay subestuaries. Estuar Coasts 40:1607–1625CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. HELCOM (2015) Guidelines for the Baltic monitoring programme for the third stage, part D. Biological determinands. Baltic Sea environment proceedings no. 27 D. Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, Helsinki Commission, p 164Google Scholar
  25. Kalff J (2002) Limnology: inland water ecosystems. Upper Saddle River ,NJ, Prentice Hall, p 300Google Scholar
  26. Kerner M, Krogmann D (1994) Partitioning of trace metals in suspended matter from the Elbe estuary fractioned by a sedimentation method. Neth J Sea Res 33:19–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lesutiene J, Bukaveckas PA, Gasiunaite ZR, Pilkaityte R, Razinkovas-Baziukas A (2014) Tracing the isotopic signal of a cyanobacteria bloom through the food web of a Baltic Sea coastal lagoon. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 138:47–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lignell R (1993) Fate of a phytoplankton spring bloom: sedimentation and carbon flow in the planktonic food-web in the northern Baltic. Marine Ecol Prog Ser 84:121–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lurling M, Van Donk E (2000) Grazer-induced colony formation in Scenedesmus: are there costs to being colonial? Oikos 88:111–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Marshall HG, Lane MF, Nesius KK, Burchardt L (2009) Assessment and significance of phytoplankton species composition within Chesapeake Bay and Virginia tributaries through a long-term monitoring program. Environ Monit Assess 150:143–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Marshall HG, Burchardt L (1998) Phytoplankton composition within the tidal freshwater region of the James River, Virginia. P Biol Soc Wash 111:720–730Google Scholar
  32. McKee LJ, Eyre BD, Hossian S (2000) Transport and retention of nitrogen and phosphorus in the sub-tropical Richmond River estuary, Australia—a budget approach. Biogeochemistry 50:241–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Meyers PA, Eadie BJ (1993) Sources, degradation and recycling of organic matter associated with sinking particles in Lake Michigan. Org Geochem 20:47–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mikhailova MV, Zaromskis R (2013) Hydrological processes in the mouth area of the Nemunas (Neman) river. Water Resour 40:97–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Olenina I, Hajdu S, Edler L, Andersson A, Wasmund N, Busch S, Göbel J, Gromisz S, Huseby S, Huttunen M, Jaanus A, Kokkonen P, Ledaine I, Niemkiewicz E (2006) Biovolumes and size-classes of phytoplankton in the Baltic Sea. HELCOM Baltic Sea environmental proceedings, no. 106, pp 144Google Scholar
  36. Pilkaitytė R, Razinkovas A (2007) Seasonal changes in phytoplankton composition and nutrient limitation in a shallow Baltic lagoon. Boreal Environ Res 12:551–559Google Scholar
  37. Poister D, DeGuelle C (2005) The influence of particle size distribution and composition on seasonal sedimentation rates in a temperate lake. Hydrobiologia 537:35–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Quijon PA, Kelly MC, Snelgrove PVR (2008) The role of sinking phytodetritus in structuring shallo-water benthic communities. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 366:134–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Radabaugh KR, Peebles EB (2012) Detection and classification of phytoplankton deposits along an estuarine gradient. Estuar Coasts 35:1361–1375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Raymond PA, Hartmann J, Lauerwald R, Sobek S, McDonald CB, Hoover M, Butman D, Striegl RG, Mayorga E, Humborg C, Kortelainen P, Durr H, Meybeck M, Ciais P, Guth P (2017) Global carbon dioxide emissions from inland waters. Nature 503:355–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Remeikaite-Nikiene N, Lujaniene G, Malejevas V, Bariseviciute R, Zilius M, Vybernaite-Lubiene I, Garnaga-Budre G, Stankevicius A (2017) Assessing nature and dynamics of POM in transitional environment (the Curonian lagoon, SE Baltic Sea) using a stable isotope approach. Ecol Indic 82:217–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Reynolds CS, Oliver RL, Walsby AE (1987) Cyanobacterial dominance: the role of buoyancy regulation in dynamic lake environments. New Zeal J Mar Fresh 21:379–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rose LA, Karwan DL, Aufdenkampe AK (2018) Sediment fingerprinting suggests differential suspended particulate matter formation and transport processes across hydrologic regimes. J Geophys Res-Biogeo 123:1213–1229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sakamaki T, Shum JYT, Richardson JS (2010) Watershed effects on chemical properties of sediment and primary consumption in estuarine tidal flats: importance of watershed size and food selectivity by macrobenthos. Ecosystems 11:328–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schindler DE, Scheuerell M (2002) Habitat coupling in lake ecosystems. Oikos 98:177–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Shen J, Lin J (2006) Modeling study of the influences of tide and stratification on age of water in the tidal James River. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 68:101–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Smayda TJ (1978) From phytoplankters to biomass. In: Phytoplankton manual. UNESCO, Paris, France, pp 273–279Google Scholar
  48. Smock LA, Wright AB, Benke AC (2005) Atlantic Coast rivers of the southeastern United States. In: Benke AC, Cushing CE (eds) Rivers of North America. Elsevier, New York, pp 73–122Google Scholar
  49. Smetacek VS (1985) Role of sinking in diatom life-history cycles: ecological, evolutionary and geological significance. Mar Biol 84:239–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sobek S, Zurbrugg R, Ostrovsky I (2011) The burial efficiency of organic carbon in the sediments of Lake Kinneret. Aquat Sci 73:355–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sommer U (1984) Sedimentation of principal phytoplankton species in Lake Constance. JPlankton Res 6:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sundelin B, Rosa R, Eriksson Wiklund AK (2008) Reproduction disorders in the benthic amphipod Monoporeia affinis: an effect of low food resources. Aquat Biol 2:179–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Tappin AD, Millward GE, Fitzsimons MF (2010) Particle-water interactions of organic nitrogen in turbid estuaries. Mar Chem 122:28–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tipper JC (2016) Measured rates of sedimentation: what exactly are we estimating and why? Sediment Geol 339:151–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Turner A, Millward GE (2002) Suspended particles: their role in estuarine biogeochemical cycles. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 55:857–883CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Umgiesser G, Zemlys P, Erturk A, Razinkova-Baziukas A, Mežinė J, Ferrarin C (2016) Seasonal renewal time variability in the Curonian lagoon caused by atmospheric and hydrographical forcing. Ocean Sci 12:391–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Vaičiutè D, Bresciani M, Bucas M (2012) Validation of MERIS bio-optical products with in situ data in the turbid Lithuanian Baltic Sea coastal waters. J Appl Remote Sens 6:063568Google Scholar
  58. Vybernaite-Lubiene I, Zilius M, Giordani G, Petkuviene J, Vaiciute D, Bukaveckas PA, Bartoli M (2017) Effect of algal blooms on retention of N, Si and P in Europe’s largest coastal lagoon. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 194:217–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wetzel RG (2001) Limnology. Lake and river ecosystems, 3rd edn. Academic Press, San Diego, p 346Google Scholar
  60. Wood JD, Elliott D, Garman G, Hopler D, Lee WM, McIninch S, Porter AJ, Bukaveckas PA (2016) Autochthony, allochthony and the role of consumers in influencing the sensitivity of aquatic systems to nutrient enrichment. Food Webs 7:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. York JK, Costas BA, McManus GB (2011) Microzooplankton grazing in green water—results from two contrasting estuaries. Estuar Coasts 34:373–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Zemlys P, Ferrarin C, Umgiesser G, Gulbinskas S, Bellafiore D (2013) Investigation of saline water intrusions into the Curonian lagoon (Lithuania) and two-layer flow in the Klaipėda Strait using finite element hydrodynamic model. Ocean Sci 9:573–584CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zilius M, Bartoli M, Bresciani M, Katarzyte M, Ruginis T, Petkuviene J, Lubiene I, Giardino C, Bukaveckas PA, de Wit R, Razinkovas-Baziukas A (2014) Feedback mechanisms between cyanobacterial blooms, transient hypoxia, and benthic phosphorus regeneration in shallow coastal environments. Estuar Coasts 37:680–694CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology and Center for Environmental StudiesVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  2. 2.Marine Research InstituteKlaipeda UniversityKlaipedaLithuania
  3. 3.Virginia Department of HealthNorfolkUSA

Personalised recommendations