Fine particle retention within stream storage areas at base flow and in response to a storm event

Water Resources Research
By: , and 

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Abstract

Fine particles (1–100 µm), including particulate organic carbon (POC) and fine sediment, influence stream ecological functioning because they may contain or have a high affinity to sorb nitrogen and phosphorus. These particles are immobilized within stream storage areas, especially hyporheic sediments and benthic biofilms. However, fine particles are also known to remobilize under all flow conditions. This combination of downstream transport and transient retention, influenced by stream geomorphology, controls the distribution of residence times over which fine particles influence stream ecosystems. The main objective of this study was to quantify immobilization and remobilization rates of fine particles in a third-order sand-and-gravel bed stream (Difficult Run, Virginia, USA) within different geomorphic units of the stream (i.e., pool, lateral cavity, and thalweg). During our field injection experiment, a thunderstorm-driven spate allowed us to observe fine particle dynamics during both base flow and in response to increased flow. Solute and fine particles were measured within stream surface waters, pore waters, sediment cores, and biofilms on cobbles. Measurements were taken at four different subsurface locations with varying geomorphology and at multiple depths. Approximately 68% of injected fine particles were retained during base flow until the onset of the spate. Retention was evident even after the spate, with 15.4% of the fine particles deposited during base flow still retained within benthic biofilms on cobbles and 14.9% within hyporheic sediment after the spate. Thus, through the combination of short-term remobilization and long-term retention, fine particles can serve as sources of carbon and nutrients to downstream ecosystems over a range of time scales.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Fine particle retention within stream storage areas at base flow and in response to a storm event
Series title Water Resources Research
DOI 10.1002/2016WR020202
Volume 53
Issue 7
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher AGU Publications
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Eastern Branch
Description 16 p.
First page 5690
Last page 5705
Country United States
State Virginia
Other Geospatial Difficult Run