Date of Award

Fall 1988

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Ocean & Earth Sciences



Committee Director

David J. Burdige

Committee Member

Gregory A. Cutter

Committee Member

Donald J. P. Swift

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.O35H47


Six sets of sediment cores were collected over a one year period (June 1986 to July 1987) to examine nutrient cycling in Bordenstake Bay, a back barrier lagoon on Virginia's Eastern Shore Peninsula. The sampling times were chosen to examine any seasonal effects (e.g., temperature changes) which may affect the rates of metabolism in these sediments.

The sedimentation rate in Bordenstake Bay is 0.76 ± 0.21 cm/yr, leading to the annual deposition of 7. 05 moles of carbon, 0.46 moles of nitrogen, and 0.15 moles of phosphorus, per square meter of the sediment surface. The remineralization of organic matter in the upper 60cm of these sediments appears to be dominated by bacterial sulfate reduction.

Nutrient remineralization rates were obtained by modelling pore water and solid phase data. The nutrient remineralization rates calculated via pore water modelling were approximately 84% less than the solid phase modelling. This discrepancy may be explained by pore water advection and authigenic mineral formation.

Mass balances derived from solid phase modelling indicate that approximately 13% of the total organic carbon, 32% of the total nitrogen, and 16% of the total phosphorus deposited in these sediments are recycled to inorganic nutrients. Most of the nutrient recycling takes place during the warmer summer and fall months based on pore water modelling. The recycling of nutrients from the sediments may supply up to 32% of the nitrogen required by primary production in the overlying water.


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