Relationships between watershed stressors and sediment contamination in Chesapeake Bay estuaries

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Three methods for assessing the relationships between estuarine sediment contaminant levels and watershed Stressors for 25 Chesapeake Bay sub-estuaries were compared. A geographic information system (GIS) was used to delineate watersheds for each sub-estuary and analyze land use pattern (area and location of developed, herbaceous and forested land) and point source pollution (annual outflow and contaminant loading) using three landscape analysis methods: (1) a watershed approach using the watershed of the estuary containing the sampling station. (2) a 'partial watershed' approach using the area of the watershed within a 10 km radius of the sampling station and (3) a 'weighted partial watershed' approach where Stressors within the partial watershed were weighted by the inverse of their linear distance from the sampling station. Nine sediment metals. 16 sediment organics and seven metals loading variables were each reduced to one principal component for statistical analyses. Relationships between the first principal components for sediment metals and organics concentrations and watershed Stressor variables were analyzed using rank correlation and stepwise multiple regression techniques. For both metals and organics. the watershed method yielded R2 values considerably lower than the partial and weighted partial watershed analysis methods. Regression models using stressor data generated by the weighted partial watershed landscape analysis method explained 76% and 47% of the variation in the first principal component for sediment metals and organics concentrations, respectively. Results suggest that the area of developed land located in the watershed within 10 km of the sediment sampling station is a major contributing factor in the sediment concentrations of both metals and organics.

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Landscape Ecology