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Research: Suspended Sediments

The sediment research conducted here includes inorganic and organic particles suspended in the water column. Sources (areas of erosion) of suspended sediment include inputs from uplands, bank or shore erosion, stream channel erosion, inputs through estuary mouth, and biogenic production. Sinks (areas of deposition) of sediment include stream channels or exports through estuary mouth.  

Estuarine Suspended Sediment Loads and Sediment Budgets in Tributaries of Chesapeake Bay (2009)

suspended sediment loadsUnderstanding the sources and sinks of suspended sediment in Chesapeake Bay tributaries is an important contribution to the Bay sediment budget, as well as an aid to management strategies. The goals of this project were to calculate suspended sediment transport processes, sediment loads and sediment budgets for the estuarine portions of major tributaries of Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and Maryland. The initial phase included the York River, Virginia and the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers, Maryland. The results of this study represent the most comprehensive calculations of sediment loads for Bay tributaries. The three rivers exhibit different magnitudes and transport directions of sediment loads. Average estuarine sediment loads show the York and Potomac importing sediment while the Patuxent may be losing sediment.

Sediment budgets, which include estuarine sediment loads, shore erosion, and estuarine accumulation, for the York and Patuxent show a sediment loss that is unaccounted for; i.e. more sediment is needed from sources, or sinks are too large.  The York River is highly energetic, redistributing large amounts of sediment within the estuary. The Patuxent River appears to export sediment to the Bay. 

Important future work for a more comprehensive understanding of suspended sediment distribution in the Chesapeake Bay includes completion of the sediment budget for the Potomac River and calculation of estuarine transport processes, sediment loads, and sediment budgets for the James and Rappahannock Rivers, Virginia.

Link to Final Report

Link to Technical Note


Bank Erosion Study (2009): Tidal Sediment Yield Estimate Methodology in Virginia for the Chesapeake Bay Program Water Quality Model

bank erosionThe purpose of this report was to assess the present methods used to calculate sediment loading from tidal shoreline erosion that is input to the Chesapeake Bay Water Quality Model, including to review and assess estimated splits of 65%:35% for bank and nearshore (shallow water area at base of bank) erosion.

The assumptions from previous work used the best available information but the 65%:35% bank/nearshore sediment contribution is clearly not the case along many shore reaches. Determining the nature of the downcutting on nearshore strata is crucial to the evaluation of the 65%:35% split and therefore sediment contributions from shore erosion.

Link to Report (VIMS Shoreline Studies Website)