We determined fluxes of oxygen and nutrients between water and sediments at 21 sites primarily in Virginia and North Carolina estuaries, over the past 15 yr. These sites represented broad ranges in salinity, tidal amplitude, hydrology, nutrient availability, turbidity, light availability, depth, sediment grain size, and anthropogenic disturbance. In general, we found that heterotrophically dominated sediments had the potential to degrade water quality, whereas photoautotrophy in the sediments ameliorated this impact. We propose a benthic trophic state index as a management tool to make general assessments of the degree to which sediments support ecological processes related to photoautotrophy. The index can be based on simple measurements of metabolic parameters. We also evaluated the relative significance of variability in the index across a number of spatial and temporal scales. Reduced photoautotrophy and/or enhanced heterotrophy tended to be associated with finer-grained, organic-rich sediments. This sediment type was common in oligohaline areas at water depths exceeding 2 m. Temporally, autotrophy declined from winter to spring particularly at sandy sites, while interannual variability was more pronounced for mud sites.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||A metabolism-based trophic index for comparing the ecological values of shallow-water sediment habitats|
|Contributing office(s)||Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, National Wetlands Research Center|
|State||North Carolina, Virginia|
|Other Geospatial||Neuse River estuary, York River estuary|