US Army Corps of Engineers
Portland District

Overview of controlling factor: Turbidity

Estuarine Turbidity Maximum "Event" graphical depictionTurbidity is an expression of the cloudiness of water, caused by suspended and dissolved materials. A reduction in the transparency of water caused by high turbidity will limit light penetration, affecting the distribution and production of aquatic plants.

The figure at right is a diagram of the estuarine turbidity maximum in the estuary (courtesy of Blake Feist, see CRETM website).  

Stressors that affect turbidity:

  • Agriculture
  • Dredging
  • Extreme climatic events
  • Flow regulation
  • Logging
  • Marinas and overwater structures
  • Shoreline armoring
  • Urbanization
  • Volcanic activity
  • Wastewater discharges
  • Water diversion

Ecosystem structures that are affected by turbidity:

  • Plankton
  • Emergent marsh
  • Mud / sand flats
  • Submerged aquatic vegetation

Interactions and equations:

Contact information

Ronald Thom, Ph.D
360-681-3657

Marine Research Operations, PNNL
1529 W. Sequim Bay Rd.
Sequim, WA 98382