Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Mark Rains, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Hilary Flower, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kenneth Trout, Ph.D.


Limestone, PEST, Phosphorus, PHREEQC, Sea Level Rise, Surface Complexation


It is important to understand the processes that regulate phosphorus (P) fluxes to coastal environments, because P is an important nutrient in coastal ecosystems. Phosphorus adsorbs to the surface of minerals in sediment and bedrock, and an influx of seawater can cause some of that P to desorb, raising the P concentration of ambient water. Although seawater-induced P desorption is thought to be an important source of P to coastal environments, the chemical reactions that underlie it have not been established. Previous work provides some relevant surface reactions and associated affinity constants between various aqueous P species and the surface of calcite and in dilute calcium carbonate-P solutions. However, these reactions with their respective affinity constants from the literature fail to predict the behavior of P with calcite in seawater. In this study, we conducted a series of batch experiments involving both adsorption and desorption of P in seawater, freshwater, dilute seawater, and mixtures of seawater and freshwater. We used these results in the geochemical model PHREEQC and the parameter estimation model PEST to optimize the affinity constants for the existing surface reactions. We found that after making minor adjustments to the affinity constants, the existing surface complexation models of calcite surface reactions from the published literature are sufficient to explain seawater-induced P desorption. Specifically, our results suggest that CaPO4- and either CaHPO40 or HPO42- may be important species in the P adsorption/desorption reactions in freshwater-seawater mixing.