The flux of dissolved reactive phosphate from Potomac riverine and estuarine sediments is controlled by processes occurring at the water-sediment interface and within surficial sediment. In situ benthic fluxes (0.1 to 2.0 mmoles m-2 day-1) are generally five to ten times higher than calculated diffusive fluxes (0.020 to 0.30 mmoles m-2 day-1). The discrepancy between the two flux estimates is greatest in the transition zone (river mile 50 to 70) and is attributd to macrofaunal irrigation. Both in situ and diffusive fluxes of dissolved reactive phosphate from Potomac tidal river sediments are low while those from anoxic lower estuarine sediments are high. The net accumulation rate of phosphorus in benthic sediment exhibits an inverse pattern. Thus a large fraction of phosphorus is retained by Potomac tidal river sediments, which contain a surficial oxidized layer and oligochaete worms tolerant of low oxygen conditions, and a large fraction of phosphorus is released from anoxic lower estuary sediments. Tidal river sediment pore waters are in equilibrium with amorphous Fe (OH)3 while lower estuary pore waters are significantly undersaturated with respect to this phase. Benthic regeneration of dissolved reactive phosphorus is sufficient to supply all the phosphorus requirements for net primary production in the lower tidal river and transition-zone waters of the Potomac River Estuary. Benthic regeneration supplies approximately 25% as much phosphorus as inputs from sewage treatment plants and 10% of all phosphorus inputs to the tidal Potomac River. When all available point source phosphorus data are put into a steady-state conservation of mass model and reasonable coefficients for uptake of dissolved phosphorus, remineralization of particulate phosphorus, and sedimentation of particulate phosphorus are used in the model, a reasonably accurate simulation of dissolved and particulate phosphorus in the water column is obtained for the summer of 1980. ?? 1982 Dr W. Junk Publishers.
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Benthic phosphorus regeneration in the Potomac River Estuary