Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Research Publications: UM-SG-RS-2011-05


Spatial patterns in water quality associated with submersed plant beds.




Gruber, RK; Hinkle, DC; Kemp, WM


Estuaries and Coasts 34(5):961-972




This study describes the influence of submersed plant beds on spatial distributions of key water quality variables. An on-board flow-through water sampling system was used to investigate patterns in turbidity, chlorophyll-a, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and pH across a robust stand of the submersed plant Stuckenia pectinata. Spatially interpolated maps show that water quality conditions were significantly altered within this plant bed, especially during months of peak biomass, and that reduction of suspended particles focused at the bed's edge. Comparison with a suite of submersed plant beds indicated that patterns were related to canopy height, shoot density, and cross-shore bed width. Wide and dense stands with tall canopies showed reduced turbidity and increased light penetration, while smaller sparser beds often showed elevated within-bed turbidity. These results suggest that bed effects on water quality conditions vary seasonally with plant canopy architecture and bed size, providing tentative guidelines for restoring self-sustaining beds.

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