Skip to main content

Calibration of a bio-optical model in the North River, North Carolina (Albemarle-Pamlico Sound): A tool to evaluate water quality impacts on seagrasses




  • Biber, P. D., Gallegos, Charles L. and Kenworthy, W. J.


  • Seagrasses are typically light limited in many turbid estuarine systems. Light attenuation is due to water and three optically active constituents (OACs): nonalgal particulates, phytoplankton, and colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM). Using radiative transfer modeling, the inherent optical properties (IOPs) of these three OACs were linked to the light attenuation coefficient, KPAR, which was measured in North River, North Carolina, by profiles of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). Seagrasses in the southern portion of Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine System (APES), the second largest estuary in the USA, were found to be light limited at depths ranging from 0.87 to 2 m. This corresponds to a range of KPAR from 0.54 to 2.76 m-1 measured during a 24-month monitoring program. Turbidity ranged from 2.20 to 35.55 NTU, chlorophyll a from 1.56 to 15.35 mg m-3, and CDOM absorption at 440 nm from 0.319 to 3.554 m-1. The IOP and water quality data were used to calibrate an existing bio-optical model, which predicted a maximum depth for seagrasses of 1.7 m using annual mean water quality values and a minimum light requirement of 22% surface PAR. The utility of this modeling approach for the management of seagrasses in the APES lies in the identification of which water quality component is most important in driving light attenuation and limiting seagrass depth distribution. The calibrated bio-optical model now enables researchers and managers alike to set water quality targets to achieve desired water column light requirement goals that can be used to set criteria for seagrass habitat protection in North Carolina.

Published In

Publication Date

  • 2008


Additional Document Info

Start Page

  • 177

End Page

  • 191


  • 31