Oxygen Consumption of Resuspended Sediments of the Upper Elbe Estuary: Process Identification and Prognosis


The resuspension of sediment leads to an increased release of nutrients and organic substances into the overlying water column, which can have a negative effect on the oxygen budget. Especially in the warmer months with a lower oxygen saturation and higher biological activity, the oxygen content can reach critical thresholds in estuaries like the upper Elbe estuary. Many studies have dealt with the nutrient fluxes that occur during a resuspension event. However, the sediment properties that influence the oxygen consumption potential (OCP) and the different biochemical processes have not been examined in detail. To fill this gap, we investigated the biogeochemical composition, texture, and OCP of sediments at 21 locations as well as the temporal variability within one location for a period of 2 years (monthly sampling) in the upper Elbe estuary. The OCP of sediments during a seven-day resuspension event can be described by the processes of sulphate formation, nitrification, and mineralisation. Chlorophyll, total nitrogen (Ntotal), and total organic carbon showed the highest correlations with the OCP. Based on these correlations, we developed a prognosis model to calculate the OCP for the upper Elbe estuary with a single sediment parameter (Ntotal). The model is well suited to calculate the oxygen consumption of resuspended sediments in the Hamburg port area during the relevant warmer months and shows a normalised root mean squared error of < 0.11 ± 0.13. Thus, the effect of maintenance measures such as water injection dredging and ship-induced wave on the oxygen budget of the water can be calculated.
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