The characteristics of a landscape may affect the properties of dissolved organic carbon that runs off the land, according to a new study led by the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences.
The study contributors found that carbon running off heavily shaded forests has a higher propensity to break down from the sun’s rays than carbon runoff from developed areas with less shade.
Elizabeth Canuel, a VIMS chemistry professor who contributed to the study, said in the release that carbon in developed areas may already have been degraded by sunlight. Previous degradation may make the carbon less reactive to sunlight once in the water.
Sunlight can modify carbon, making it more difficult for organisms to consume it once in the Chesapeake Bay, according to the release. The degraded carbon then is more likely to contribute to low oxygen zones in the bay.
The study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.