Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

David Ellison, University of Maryland

Class Year: 

Project Title: 

A Mathematical Study of the Benthic Region of the Chesapeake Bay


Eutrophication of the Chesapeake Bay is in modern times an annual event brought about by a variety of factors, especially addition of inorganic nitrogen to the Bay in the form of farmland runoff and dumping of sewage directly into the Bay, This study aims at studying one of the effects of this overfertilization of the Chesapeake Bay—the occurrence of anoxic conditions in the subpycnocline region of the water column and the effects of this anoxia on benthic life. As a means of producing this study, we utilize mathematical modeling via High Performance Systems' Stella (version 2.0), and aim at concentrating on the benthic region of the Bay. Primary and secondary producing plankton in the water column are also modeled so that their direct effects on nutrient and oxygen cycling can be monitored. At this stage in the project, the model represents a closed system, and mimics the general trends of the planktonic components of the Bay. The lower water column approaches anoxia soon after the crash of the phytoplankton spring bloom, resulting in loss of benthic fauna, though not in a manner expected. The model will be expanded to an open system in the future, to include predation of secondary producers, inflow of inorganic nitrogen into the system, and more accurate details regarding benthic fauna metabolic processes, with the hopes of more accurately mimicking field data.