Coupling high-frequency stream metabolism and nutrient monitoring to explore biogeochemical controls on downstream nitrate delivery
Instream biogeochemical process measurements are often short-term and localized. Here we use in situ sensors to quantify the net effects of biogeochemical processes on seasonal patterns in baseflow nitrate retention at the river-reach scale. Dual-station high-frequency in situ nitrate measurements, were coupled with high-frequency measurements of stream metabolism and dissolved inorganic carbon, in a tributary of the Buffalo National River, Arkansas. Nitrate assimilation was calculated from net primary production, and combined with mass-balance measurements, to estimate net nitrification and denitrification. The combined net effects of these instream processes (assimilation, denitrification, and nitrification) removed >30–90% of the baseflow nitrate load along a 6.5 km reach. Assimilation of nitrate by photoautotrophs during spring and early summer was buffered by net nitrification. Net nitrification peaked during the spring. After midsummer, there was a pronounced switch from assimilatory nitrate uptake to denitrification. There was clear synchronicity between the switch from nitrate assimilation to denitrification, a reduction in river baseflows, and a shift in stream metabolism from autotrophy to heterotrophy. The results show how instream nitrate retention and downstream delivery is driven by seasonal shifts in metabolic pathways; and how continuous in situ stream sensor networks offer new opportunities for quantifying the role of stream biota in the dynamics, fate, and transport of nitrogen in fluvial systems.
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Coupling high-frequency stream metabolism and nutrient monitoring to explore biogeochemical controls on downstream nitrate delivery|
|Series title||Environmental Science & Technology|
|Contributing office(s)||Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center|
|Other Geospatial||Big Creek watershed|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|