The subsurface riparian zone was examined as an ecotone with two interfaces. Inland is a terrestrial boundary, where transport of water and dissolved solutes is toward the channel and controlled by watershed hydrology. Streamside is an aquatic boundary, where exchange of surface water and dissolved solutes is bi-directional and flux is strongly influenced by channel hydraulics. Streamside, bi-directional exchange of water was qualitatively defined using biologically conservative tracers in a third order stream. In several experiments, penetration of surface water extended 18 m inland. Travel time of water from the channel to bankside sediments was highly variable. Subsurface chemical gradients were indirectly related to the travel time. Sites with long travel times tended to be low in nitrate and DO (dissolved oxygen) but high in ammonium and DOC (dissolved organic carbon). Sites with short travel times tended to be high in nitrate and DO but low in ammonium and DOC. Ammonium concentration of interstitial water also was influenced by sorption-desorption processes that involved clay minerals in hyporheic sediments. Denitrification potential in subsurface sediments increased with distance from the channel, and was limited by nitrate at inland sites and by DO in the channel sediments. Conversely, nitrification potential decreased with distance from the channel, and was limited by DO at inland sites and by ammonium at channel locations. Advection of water and dissolved oxygen away from the channel resulted in an oxidized subsurface habitat equivalent to that previously defined as the hyporheic zone. The hyporheic zone is viewed as stream habitat because of its high proportion of surface water and the occurrence of channel organisms. Beyond the channel's hydrologic exchange zone, interstitial water is often chemically reduced. Interstitial water that has not previously entered the channel, groundwater, is viewed as a terrestrial component of the riparian ecotone. Thus, surface water habitats may extend under riparian vegetation, and terrestrial groundwater habitats may be found beneath the stream channel. ?? 1993 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Additional publication details
The role of water exchange between a stream channel and its hyporheic zone in nitrogen cycling at the terrestrial-aquatic interface