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Seasonal-Scale and Decadal-Scale Sediment-Vegetation Interactions on the Subaqueous Susquehanna River Delta, Upper Chesapeake Bay
Russ, ER; Palinkas, CM
Submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) have been a prominent feature on the Susquehanna Flats, the shallow, subaqueous delta of the Susquehanna River, Maryland. SAV were absent from the Flats between 1972 and 2000, but have since recovered. While it is well established that SAV can improve water quality by promoting sediment and nutrient retention, it is not well understood how SAV on the Flats modulate sediment input from the Susquehanna River into the Upper Chesapeake Bay over different timescales. This study evaluates sedimentation on the Flats over seasonal to decadal timescales, using naturally occurring radioisotopes (Be-7, Pb-210) within the context ofSAV biomass and Flats geomorphology. Results indicate that sedimentation on the Flats is both spatially and temporally variable. Although this variability cannot be explained by relationships with grain size and SAV biomass, river discharge, sediment supply, and geometry over the SAV bed likely control sedimentation in this system. Decadal-scale sedimentation is influenced by both flood events and changes in SAV biomass abundance. Average annual sediment accumulation was higher when SAV were present than when SAV were absent. SAV bed area was strongly correlated with average annual accumulation rate. These results suggest that a positive feedback between SAV abundance and accumulation rate exists; however, sediment supply and transport pathways are also important factors.
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