The Transition of Benthic Nutrient Sources after Planned Levee Breaches Adjacent to Upper Klamath and Agency Lakes, Oregon

Open-File Report 2010-1062

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
, , , , , , , , and



Four sampling trips were coordinated after planned levee breaches that hydrologically reconnected both Upper Klamath Lake and Agency Lake, Oregon, to adjacent wetlands. Sets of nonmetallic pore-water profilers were deployed during these trips in November 2007, June 2008, May 2009, and July 2009. Deployments temporally spanned the annual cyanophyte bloom of Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) and spatially involved three lake and four wetland sites. Profilers, typically deployed in triplicate at each lake or wetland site, provided high-resolution (centimeter-scale) estimates of the vertical concentration gradients for diffusive-flux determinations. Estimates based on molecular diffusion may underestimate benthic flux because solute transport across the sediment-water interface can be enhanced by processes including bioturbation, bioirrigation and groundwater advection. Water-column and benthic samples were also collected to help interpret spatial and temporal trends in diffusive-flux estimates. Data from these samples complement taxonomic and geochemical analyses of bottom-sediments taken from Upper Klamath Lake (UKL) in prior studies. This ongoing study provides information necessary for developing process-interdependent solute-transport models for the watershed (that is, models integrating physical, geochemical, and biological processes) and supports efforts to evaluate remediation or load-allocation strategies. To augment studies funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), the Department of the Interior supported an additional full deployment of pore-water profilers in November 2007 and July 2009, immediately following the levee breaches and after the crash of the annual summer AFA bloom. As observed consistently since 2006, benthic flux of 0.2-micron filtered, soluble reactive phosphorus (that is, biologically available phosphorus, primarily as orthophosphate; SRP) was consistently positive (that is, out of the sediment into the overlying water column) and ranged from a negligible value (-0.19?0.91 milligrams per square meter per day; mg m-2 d-1) within wetlands of the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge to 74?48 mg m-2 d-1 at the newly restored wetland site removed from the levee breach (TNC1); both observed in May 2009 before the annual AFA bloom. When areally averaged (13 km2 for the newly restored wetlands), an SRP flux to the overlying water column is determined of approximately 87,000 kilograms (kg) over the 3-month AFA bloom season that exceeds the magnitude of riverine inputs (42,000 kg for the season). Elevated SRP benthic flux at TNC1 relative to all other lake and wetland sites (including TNC2 near the breached levee) in 2009 suggests that the restored wetlands, at least chemically, remain in a transition period after engineered blasts on October 30, 2007, restored hydrologic connectivity between lake and wetland environments. As reported in previous lake studies, ammonium fluxes to the water column were consistently positive, with the exception of two measurements at the restored wetland sites (TNC1 and TNC2) immediately following the levee breaches in November 2007. The flux of ammonia, particularly at elevated pH in the overlying water column, has toxicological implications for endangered fish populations in both lake and wetland environments. For dissolved nitrate, with the exception of a single positive flux measurement at TNC1 in June 2008 (0.16?0.02 mg m-2 d-1), consistently negative (consumed by the sediment) or undetectable nitrate-flux values were observed (-21?12 mg m-2 d-1 to undetectable fluxes due to concentrations for dissolved nitrate <0.03 milligrams per liter (mg L-1) in both porewaters and overlying waters near the sediment-water interface). Such negative fluxes for dissolved nitrate are typical of microbial transformations, such as dinitrification (dissimilatory nitrate reduction), that benthically consume nitrate from the water column. The diffusive-flux measurements reported herei

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
The Transition of Benthic Nutrient Sources after Planned Levee Breaches Adjacent to Upper Klamath and Agency Lakes, Oregon
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Hydrologic Research and Development Program
Report: iv, 18 p.; tables; video file folder
Online Only (Y/N):
Additional Online Files (Y/N):