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Quantifying nitrogen cycling beneath a meander of a low gradient, N-impacted, agricultural stream using tracers and numerical modelling
Hydrological Processes (2007)
  • Stephen Van der Hoven
  • Nicholas J Fromm
  • Eric Wade Peterson
Abstract
In watersheds impacted by nitrate from agricultural fertilizers, nitrification and denitrification may be decoupled as denitrification in the hyporheic zone is not limited to naturally produced nitrate. While most hyporheic research focuses on the 1–2 m of sediment beneath the stream bed, there are a limited number of studies that quantify nitrogen (N) cycling at larger hyporheic scales (10s of metres to kms). We conducted an investigation to quantify N cycling through a single meander of a low gradient, meandering stream, draining an agricultural watershed. Chemistry (major ions and N species) and hydrologic data were collected from the stream and groundwater beneath the meander. Evidence indicates that nearly all the shallow groundwater flowing beneath the meander originates as stream water on the upgradient side of the meander, and returns to the stream on the downgradient side. We quantified the flux of water beneath the meander using a numerical model. The flux of N into and out of the meander was quantified by multiplying the concentration of the important N species (nitrate, ammonium, dissolved organic nitrogen (DON)) by the modelled water fluxes. The flux of N into the meander is dominated by nitrate, and the flux of N out of the meander is dominated by ammonium and DON. While stream nitrate varied seasonally, ammonium and DON beneath the meander were relatively constant throughout the year. When stream nitrate concentrations are high (>2 mg litre−1), flow beneath the meander is a net sink for N as more N from nitrate in stream water is consumed than is produced as ammonium and DON. When stream nitrate concentrations are low (<2 mg litre−1), the flux of N entering is less than exiting the meander. On an annual basis, the meander hyporheic flow serves as a net sink for N.
Keywords
  • •nitrogen cycling,
  • hyporheic zone,
  • groundwater modeling,
  • meanders
Publication Date
July, 2007
DOI
10.1002/hyp.6691
Citation Information
Van der Hoven, S. J., Fromm, N. J. and Peterson, E. W. (2008), Quantifying nitrogen cycling beneath a meander of a low gradient, N-impacted, agricultural stream using tracers and numerical modelling. Hydrol. Process., 22: 1206–1215. doi: 10.1002/hyp.6691