, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 643–652 | Cite as

The relative importance of chlorophyll and colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) to the prediction of the diffuse attenuation coefficient in shallow estuaries

  • Alison B. Branco
  • James N. Kremer


The availability of underwater light is a critical factor in the growth and abundance of primary producers in shallow embayments. The goal of this study was to examine the relative importance of factors influencing light availability in this type of water body. Many simulation models of aquatic ecosystems predict light attenuation from chlorophyll or phytoplankton stock. In the three southern New England sites studied here, no useful relationship was found to exist between chlorophyll and KPAR (the diffuse attenuation coefficient of photosynthetically active radiation; Kirk 1994; Mobley 1994). In 40 of 53 cases, a regression of chlorophyll versus KPAR was not statistically significant. Variation in KPAR did demonstrate a correlation to salinity, implicating a freshwater source of light attenuating material. This was true even in a system with little freshwater inflow. Colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) is one such terrestrial input that enters estuaries from their watersheds and can strongly influence the availability of light to aquatic primary producers. This study demonstrated that over 70% of the variability in the KPAR coefficient can be attributed to CDOM in the shallow estuaries studied. This illustrates the need for improved model formulations that include CDOM in the prediction of light attenuation in shallow coastal systems. A new equation has been developed to predict KPAR with CDOM.


Chlorophyll Phytoplankton Dissolve Organic Matter Light Attenuation Chromophoric Dissolve Organic Matter 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Estuarine Research Federation 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marine SciencesUniversity of ConnecticutGroton

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