New information on chemical and physical characteristics of streams and floodplains across the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River watersheds

Science Center Objects

Issue: Improving stream health is an important outcome of the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership. Stream conditions are important for recreational fisheries, and mitigating the amount of nutrients, sediment, and contaminants delivered to the Bay.

USGS study

The USGS established the Chesapeake and Delaware Floodplain Network to provide improved information on the chemical and physical characteristics of stream and associated floodplains. The network has 68 sites that were sampled to measure the fluxes of sediment and nutrients for floodplains and streambanks, and stream reach geomorphometry and streambed characteristics, of the mid-Atlantic.  Sites were chosen to have largely unmodified geomorphology, permission to access, and presence of woody vegetation to enable the dendrogeomorphic technique, and to represent the regional variability in land use, geology, topography and drainage area, soils, and hydrology in the upstream drainage area. 

The USGS also developed a tool called the Floodplain and Channel Evaluation Tool (FACET) ( to remotely map stream and floodplain geomorphic characteristics such as bank height, channel width, and floodplain width.

Licking Creek, Maryland

Licking Creek, Maryland, nearby USGS gage (USGS 01613525 LICKING CREEK AT PECTONVILLE, MD)
(Credit: Gregory B. Noe, Florence Bascom Geoscience Center)

Major findings

Dataset includes site averages of measurements of:

  • floodplain and streambank sediment physico-chemistry, including concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon, organic matter, carbonate, and particle size and sediment bulk density
  • floodplain and streambank long-term vertical and lateral geomorphic change
  • floodplain width, streambank height, channel width, and streambed particle size
  • floodplain and streambank long-term fluxes of sediment, fine sediment, sediment-C, sediment-N, and sediment-P


Management applications

Information on the chemical and physical characteristics of streams will help resource managers to develop and target restoration and conservation actions for streams. The findings will also help the scientific community to improve modeling of watershed transport processes, helping stakeholders around the mid-Atlantic to meet goals of reducing downstream loading of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment.


For more information

Noe, G.B., Hupp, C.R., Schenk, E.R., Doody, T.R., and Hopkins, K.G., 2020, Physico-chemical characteristics and sediment and nutrient fluxes of floodplains, streambanks, and streambeds in the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River watersheds: U.S. Geological Survey data release,


Date released: May 7, 2020


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