Marsh-water column interactions in two Louisiana estuaries. II. Nutrient dynamics

Daniel L. Childers, John W. Day

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The exchange of dissolved nutrients between marshes and the inundating water column was measured using throughflow marsh flumes built, in two microtidal Louisiana estuaries: the Barataria Basin estuary and Fourleague Bay. The flumes were sampled between September 1986 and April 1988, coincident with an extended period of low sea level on the Louisiana coast. The Barataria Basin estuary is in the later, deteriorating stage of the deltaic cycle, characterized by low freshwater inputs and subsiding marshes. Both brackish and saline marshes supplied dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), inorganic nitrogen (ammonium + nitrate + nitrite = DIN), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and total nitrogen (as total Kjeldahl nitrogen = TKN) to the water column. The export of DIN is probably related to the N accumulated in earlier stages of deltaic development and released as these marshes deteriorate. Coastal brackish marshes of Fourleague, Bay, part of an accreting marsh system in an early, developmental stage of the deltaic cycle, exported TKN to the open water estuary in all samplings. This marsh apparently acted as a short-term buffer of DIN by taking up NH4+ in spring, when baywide concentrations were high, and supplying DIN to the estuary in summer and fall, when concentrations, in the bay were lower. Differences in phosphorus (P), DOC, and DON fluxes between these two estuaries were also observed. The Fourleague Bay site exported soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) and total phosphorus (TP) and imported DOC. This P export may be related to remobilization of sediment-bound riverine P by the reducing, soils of the marshes. Fluxes of SRP at the Barataria Basin sites were variable and low while DOC was imported. Most imports of dissolved nutrients were correlated with higher upstream [source] concentrations, and flux rates were fairly consistent throughout the tide. Dissolved nutrient exports, did not correlate with upstream concentrations, though, and in many cases the flux was dominated by early, flood tide nutrient release. This pulsed behavior may be caused by rapid diffusion from the sediments early in the tidal cycle, when the sediment-water concentration gradient is largest. Interestuary differences were also seen in particulate organic matter fluxes, as the Fourleague Bay marsh exported POC and PON during all samplings while Barataria Basin imported these nutrients. In general, the magnitude and direction of nutrient exchanges in Louisiana marshes, seem to reflect the deltaic successional stage of the estuary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)404-417
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Aquatic Science
  • General Environmental Science


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