Although pollution from sedimentation may not be intellectually stimulating because the effects are so obvious, it is an important concern. "Sediment is probably the most significant of all surface water pollutants in terms of its concentration in water, its impacts on water use, and its effects on the transport of other pollutants" (Logan, 1995). It is, by weight, the largest source of contamination in aquatic systems, and it is considered to be one of the primary contaminants in the Monterey Bay watersheds.

Sediment acts as a pollutant in several ways. Suspended sediments limits the penetration of light, which reduces the amount of photosynthesis; and it interferes with planktonic food webs and benthic filter feeders. The deposition of that sediment smothers organisms and destroys benthic habitats. This problem is of special concern for coral reefs adjacent to agricultural areas with elevated rates of soil erosion. Sedimentation also reduces the volumes of lakes and reservoirs, which lowers their capacity for storing water. additionally, sediment serves as both a source and sink for other contaminants (e.g., nutrients, heavy metals, pesticides), which means that those contaminants may be either released from sediments or sequestered onto sediments in aquatic environments.


Douglas, I. 1990. Sediment Transfer and Siltation. In: The Earth as Transformed by Human Activity. (B.L. Turner II, W.C. Clark, R.W. Kates, J.F. Richards, J.T. Mathews, and W.B. Meyer, eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 215-234.

Logan, T.J. 1995. Water Quality. In: Environmental Geology (A.D. Ward and W.J. Elliot, eds.), CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, FL, pp. 311-336.


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