, Volume 119, Issue 2, pp 247-255

Nitrogen and phosphorus uptake in two Idaho (USA) headwater wilderness streams

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Nitrate and phosphate solutions were released into two reaches of two central Idaho streams to determine within- and between-stream variability in uptake lengths, uptake rates, and mass transfer coefficients. Physical and biotic stream characteristics and periphyton nitrate-uptake rates in recirculating chambers were measured to determine their influence on nutrient dynamics. Phosphate uptake length did not differ among the four reaches. There were no within-stream differences in nitrate uptake lengths but they did differ between the two streams. Long nitrate uptake lengths likely were due to instream concentrations above saturation but also may have been influenced by differences in active surface area and algal abundance. Nitrate and phosphate uptake lengths were longer, and uptake rates higher, than most other published values. However, mass transfer coefficients were comparable to measurements in other streams. Mass transfer coefficients may be a better parameter for temporal and spatial comparisons of instream nutrient dynamics, and for determining the underlying causes of variability in uptake length.

Received: 27 May 1998 / Accepted: 11 January 1999