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Keywords:

  • sediment;
  • source apportionment;
  • Bayesian inference;
  • chemical mass balance

Abstract

A Bayesian chemical mass balance approach was used to estimate the contributions of potential sources into the suspended sediments in the Mill Stream, a tributary of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, US. The Bayesian approach allows us to incorporate the uncertainties as a result of measurement errors in the elemental profiles of sources and suspended sediments in the stream and also the heterogeneities of the elemental profiles among samples into the analysis and provides us with probability densities representing the contribution of each source. Based on the obtained results, river bank erosion is the major source of sediments with a contribution estimated to range from 83% to 99% with a 95% credible interval. Also, a 95% credible interval in a range of 0.06% to 8% for cropland and 0.1% to 14% for forestland was provided. Hence, while the contribution of sediments from cropland or forestland cannot be ruled out, the model does not definitively demonstrate a significant contribution from either source. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.