Stratification and Loading of Fecal Indicator Bacteria (FIB) In A Tidally Muted Urban Salt Marsh

(Abstract) Stratification and loading of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) were assessed in the main tidal channel of the Ballona Wetlands, an urban salt marsh receiving muted tidal flows, to (1) determine FIB concentration versus loading within the water column at differing tidal flows, (2) identify associations of FIB with other water quality parameters, and (3) compare wetland FIB concentrations to the adjacent estuary. Sampling was conducted four times during spring-tide events; samples were analyzed for FIB and turbidity (NTU) four times over a tidal cycle at pre-allocated depths, depending on the water level. Additional water quality parameters measured included temperature, salinity, oxygen, and pH. Loadings were calculated by integrating the stratified FIB concentrations with water column cross-sectional volumes corresponding to each depth. Enterococci and Escherichia coli were stratified both by concentration and loading, although these variables portrayed different patterns over a tidal cycle. Greatest concentrations occurred in surface to mid-strata levels, during flood tides when contaminated water flowed in from the estuary, and during ebb flows when sediments were suspended. Loading was greatest during flood flows and diminished during low tide periods. FIB concentrations within the estuary often were significantly greater than those within the wetland tide channel, supporting previous studies that the wetlands act as a sink for FIB. For public health water quality monitoring, these results indicate that more accurate estimates of FIB concentrations would be obtained by sampling a number of points within a water column rather than relying only on single surface samples.