Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Paul Bukaveckas


A 12-month study (January to December 2015) focused on the effects of tidal forcing on nutrient fluxes in the tidal, freshwater segment of the James River Estuary (JRE). Discrete sampling of nutrient chemistry and continuous monitoring of tidal discharge were used to determine the volume and timing of the tides, and differences in nutrient concentrations between incoming and outgoing tides. The goal of this study was to improve understanding of tidal influence on nutrient fluxes and their role in nutrient transport to the lower estuary. Results suggested that differences in nutrient concentrations between incoming and outgoing tides were small throughout the year. This finding suggests that nutrient fluxes at the study site, near the tidal fresh-oligohaline boundary of the James, are largely determined by tidal volume owing to weak concentrations gradients. Changes in water quality during seaward and landward tidal excursions into deeper versus shallower segments were analyzed to infer biogeochemical processes. Differences in oxygen production and nitrate utilization suggest greater autotrophy during landward excursions, consistent with more favorable light conditions. This work was conducted as a collaborative effort between Virginia Commonwealth University, the USGS, Randolph-Macon College, and Washington and Lee University participating in the “Mountains to the Sea” project.


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