Hydrologie and biotic influences on nitrate removal in a subtropical spring-fed river


Journal Article

We use a long-term chemical and hydrologic record in combination with longitudinal sampling and highfrequency nitrate (NO3-) measurements from in situ sensors to describe temporal and spatial patterns of nitrogen (N) inputs and removal in the spring-fed Ichetucknee River (Columbia County, Florida) and to determine the hydrological, geomorphic, and biological factors that influence those dynamics. Over a 20-yr period of record, NO 3-N removal averaged 118 kg N d-1 (0.77 g N m-2 d-1 ) over the upper 5 km of the Ichetucknee River. Three independent estimates of gross autotrophic N assimilation (from gross primary production, diel NO3- variation, and standing biomass) agreed closely but accounted for less than 20% of observed N removal. Longitudinal surveys indicate negligible or negative dissolved organic nitrogen and ammonium (NH4+) production, suggesting that denitrification is the predominant mechanism of N removal in this river. A positive relationship between discharge and the magnitude of NO3-N removal shows that interactions with the surrounding floodplain exert considerable influence at high flows, and longitudinal NO3- patterns indicate that N removal may be influenced by channel morphology. These results suggest a greater role for dissimilatory processes and hydrologic connectivity with hyporheic and floodplain sediments than has been previously recognized in highly productive spring-fed rivers of north Florida. While hydrologic variation is the primary determinant of variation in NO 3- removal within the Ichetucknee River, comparison across systems indicates that biotic characteristics can cause significant deviation from predictions based on purely physical models of relationships between river size and N removal. © 2010 by the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, Inc.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Heffernan, JB; Cohen, MJ; Frazer, TK; Thomas, RG; Rayfield, TJ; Gulley, J; Martin, JB; Delfmo, JJ; Graham, WD

Published Date

  • January 1, 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 55 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 249 - 263

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0024-3590

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.4319/lo.2010.55.1.0249

Citation Source

  • Scopus