During periods of sediment resuspension, desorption of ammonium from sediment solids can be the major pathway for enriching the water column with the ammonium that is produced by bacterial degradation of organic matter in the bottom material. This hyopthesis is based on a three-year study of diffusive flux in the transition zone of the Potomac River at a site 35 m from the Virginia shore where the average water-column depth is approximately 1 m over sandy sediment. A diffusion-controlled sampler was used to collect water samples at the interface between the water column and sediment and at several tens of centimeters into the sediment. Interstitial water concentration gradients showed that diffusive flux of ammonium from the sandy shallow-water sediments was approximately 1% of the diffusive flux of ammonium from the silty channel sediments in the same zone of the Potomac River. Organic nitrogen and bound or adsorbed ammonium were the predominant nitrogen forms in the sediment. Adsorbed ammonium concentrations ranged from nondetectable to 3??7 ??mol g-1 of sediment. Concentrations of adsorbed ammonium per gram of sediment were one to three orders of magnitude more than interstitial water ammonium concentrations. Desorption of ammonium from sediment solids appeared to be the controlling factor in the degree of water-column ammonium enrichment. In laboratory experiments that simulated sediment resuspension, 40-80% of the adsorbed ammonium predicted to desorb did so after approximately 30 min of mixing. Based on calculations for 1 m2 to a depth of 4 cm, one resuspenion event lasting minutes could mix more ammonium into the water column from desorption of ammonium from sediment solids than could be delivered to the water column by diffusive flux from shallow-water sediments in 10-1000 days and would be comparable to enrichment by ammonium diffusive flux for 5-50 days from channel sediments in the same river zone. ?? 1989.