Impaired water quality in a small stream was related to autumn leaf fall from riparian vegetation. Dissolved oxygen and pH decreased, and water color, specific conductance, iron, manganese, and bicarbonate values increased as the rate of leaf fall increased. Similar quality changes occurred in laboratory cultures of tree leaves in filtered stream water, but the five leaf species studied produced widely differing results. Stream quality improved rapidly following channel flushing by storm flow. Organic loading by tree litter can exert significant control on water composition, especially during low flow.
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Tree leaf control on low flow water quality in a small Virginia stream