Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study: Source of organic matter affects Bay water quality

24.04.2013
Persistence of “urban” organics downstream favors dead-zone formation
Each time it rains, runoff carries an earthy tea steeped from leaf litter, crop residue, soil, and other organic materials into the storm drains and streams that feed Chesapeake Bay.

A new study led by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science reveals that land use in the watersheds from which this “dissolved organic matter” originates has important implications for Bay water quality, with the organic carbon in runoff from urbanized or heavily farmed landscapes more likely to persist as it is carried downstream, thus contributing energy to fuel low-oxygen “dead zones” in coastal waters.

The study appears in this month’s issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research, and was highlighted by the journal’s publisher, the American Geophysical Union, as an “AGU Research Spotlight” in their print and online channels.

The study was authored by VIMS post-doctoral researcher Dr. Yuehan Lu (now at the University of Alabama), VIMS Professor Elizabeth Canuel, Professor Jim Bauer of Ohio State University, Associate Professor Youhei Yamashita of Hokkaido 
University in Japan, Professor Randy Chambers of the College of William & Mary, and Professor Rudolf Jaffé of Florida International University.

Low-oxygen dead zones are a growing problem in Chesapeake Bay and coastal ecosystems worldwide. While most management practices focus on reducing inputs of nitrogen and other nutrients known to fuel dead zones, Canuel says “organic matter from the watershed may also contribute. One goal of our study was to examine the quality of organic matter derived from streams and its potential to contribute to dead-zone formation.”

Sunlight & bacteria

As streams and rivers carry dissolved organic matter downstream, bacteria or sunlight can modify it into compounds and forms that are more difficult for organisms to use. While the team’s research showed no significant difference in bacterial degradation of organic matter from cleared or forested watersheds, Canuel says it did show that “organic carbon in runoff from watersheds affected by 
human activity is less 
susceptible to solar degradation than that from forested watersheds.”

“Urban organics” thus remain at higher 
levels longer, says Canuel, “delivering more organic material to the river mouth and increasing the likelihood that low-oxygen conditions will develop in downstream locations such as estuaries and the coastal ocean.”

The research team conducted their study using samples taken from seven small streams that flow into the James and York rivers, major tributaries of Chesapeake Bay. Three of these streams drain forested watersheds, with 87 to 100% tree cover, while the other four drain watersheds largely converted by human activity into pasture, cropland, or pavement and buildings.

The authors aren’t yet sure why the
 organic carbon from the more developed watersheds is less vulnerable to breakdown by sunlight in rivers and streams, but suggest that it might be because it has already been exposed to appreciable sunlight in the less shady urban and agricultural environment.
Says Canuel, “Urban organics may persist downstream because their more photoreactive compounds have already been degraded due to greater light exposure in urban areas, farm fields, and pastures, leaving only the more photo-resistant, refractory compounds to wash into the coastal zone.”

The team’s findings provide one possible mechanism for an observed increase in the concentration of dissolved organic carbon in the surface waters of North America and Europe during the last few decades, and have implications for management of water quality in coastal zones worldwide.

“Our results show that future studies should assess not only the quantity of dissolved organic carbon entering our rivers and streams, but also its source,” says Canuel. “Understanding how organic matter from developed and undeveloped watersheds behaves in the aquatic environment will contribute to the development of more effective watershed management practices and hopefully more successful efforts to reduce the number, extent, and duration of low-oxygen dead zones.”

David Malmquist | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.vims.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht How much biomass grows in the savannah?
16.02.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

nachricht Canadian glaciers now major contributor to sea level change, UCI study shows
15.02.2017 | University of California - Irvine

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Switched-on DNA

20.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Second cause of hidden hearing loss identified

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

Prospect for more effective treatment of nerve pain

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>