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Keywords:

  • suspended sediment;
  • hysteresis;
  • San Lorenzo River;
  • small, mountainous rivers;
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH);
  • sediment load;
  • climate change;
  • Monterey Bay

ABSTRACT

Suspended sediment and organic contaminants were measured during a period of 2 years in the San Lorenzo River, central California, which discharges into the Pacific Ocean within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, in an effort to quantify the potential environmental effects of storm events from a steep, mountainous coastal urban watershed. Most suspended sediment transport occurred during flooding caused by winter storms; 56% of the total sediment load for the 2-year study was transported by the river during one storm event in January 2010. Concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can exceed regulatory criteria during high-flow events in the San Lorenzo River, and total annual polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon load was on the order of 10 kg in water year 2010. These results highlight the importance of episodic sediment and contaminant transport in steep, mountainous coastal watersheds and emphasize the importance of understanding physical processes and quantifying chemical constituents in discharge from coastal watersheds on event-scale terms. Published 2012. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.