The Potomac River at Chain Bridge is the major riverine source of dissolved silica (DSi) to the tidal Potomac River and Estuary. DSi concentrations at Chain Bridge are positively correlated with river discharge; river discharge is an important factor controlling rates of supply, dilution, and residence time. When river flow is high, the longitudinal DSi distribution is conservative. When river flow is low, other processes, such as phytoplankton uptake, benthic flux, resuspension, ground-water discharge, and water-column dissolution of diatoms, tend to be more influential than the river. Elevated concentrations of DSi in sewage-treatment-plant effluent in the Washington, D.C., area raise the DSi concentration of receiving Potomac River water. The tidal river zone serves as a net sink for DSi as a result of phytoplankton uptake. Ultimately, the biogenic silica from the tidal river is transported to the transition zone, where it is mineralized. As a result, the DSi concentration in the transition zone increases during summer. The DSi concentrations in the estuarine zone are largely controlled by dilution by Chesapeake Bay water and by phytoplankton uptake.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Dissolved silica in the tidal Potomac River and Estuary, 1979-81 water years