Chesapeake Bay Affected by Urban Organic Matter

Organic MatterMonsoon is eagerly awaited across the globe, but rains do not seem very favorable in the Chesapeake Bay region. With every shower, a considerable amount of soil erosion also occurs at the Bay. Important minerals, significant to the nutrition of the soil, are swept away in the rain. Crop residue and earthy tea is flooded away into the Bay, and further piles up the garbage and litter in the waters.

A recent research by Virginia Institute of Marine Science has shown that this organic matter could have adverse implications on the water quality of the Bay. Organic carbon flows downstream and renders the low-oxygen terrain, lot of energy, especially in the coastal areas. So, is this urban organic waste actually eco friendly, or not? Let’s find out.

About the Research

The research was conducted this year in April. It was published in the Geophysical Research Journal, and was highlighted by Geophysical Union of America on their website and in printed copies. One of the authors of the study include Dr. Yuehan Lu, VIMS Post Doctorate Scholar. Other authors are Elizabeth Canuel, Professor at VIMS, Jim Bauer, Professor at Ohio State University, and Youhei Yamashita, Associate Professor, at Japan. Professor Randy Chambers from the William & Mary College and Senior Professor at Florida International University, Rudolf Jaffé are also the authors.

The study was aimed at evaluating the quality content of the organic matter collected at the streams (flowing into the Bay) and its ability to add to the oxygen-low zones of the coast. Usually these streams are mistaken for being especially harmful to the sea bed and marine life, but this research aimed at finding out if these could actually be beneficial to the “dead zones” of Chesapeake Bay.

The researchers used samples from 7 different brooks that are destined at the James & York Rivers, and other major tributaries of Chesapeake Bay. 3 out of the 7 streams are responsible for soil erosion in forested areas with a large amount of tree cover. But the remaining 4 drain watersheds were infected due to human waste, such as concrete pavements or buildings.

Urban Organic Carbon is among eco friendly promotional items

Canuel commented that the study showed that organic carbon or urban waste is less harmful to the water quality, as compared to degradation caused by sun. So, it is considered among the eco friendly promotional items. Urban waste has a tendency to remain at a higher level in the water. It delivers more organic matter to the rivers and increases the chances of development of low-oxygen zones in brooks and coastal areas. Solar degradation refers to the process of modification of organic matter by bacteria and sunlight into complex compounds, not easily breakable by organisms.

Researchers are not sure as to how organic carbons from concrete areas (earlier watersheds areas) are not easily modifiable by the sun and bacteria. They suggest that it is perhaps due to the fact that it has had exposure to the sun in the urban localities. Canuel commented that urban organic waste may culminate on the downstream. The compound present which reacts to sunlight has been deteriorated to a large extent due to the large exposure to sunlight in more urban areas. This prevents the modification of the urban organic waste from solar degradation. So, only the photo resistant compounds are washed into the Bay.


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