, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 1781-1793

Effects of hydromorphology and riparian vegetation on the sediment quality of agricultural low-order streams: consequences for stream restoration

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Intensive agricultural land use imposes multiple pressures on streams. More specifically, the loading of streams with nutrient-enriched soil from surrounding crop fields may deteriorate the sediment quality. The current study aimed to find out whether stream restoration may be an effective tool to improve the sediment quality of agricultural headwater streams. We compared nine stream reaches representing different morphological types (forested meandering reaches vs. deforested channelized reaches) regarding sediment structure, sedimentary nutrient and organic matter concentrations, and benthic microbial respiration. Main differences among reach types were found in grain sizes. Meandering reaches featured larger mean grain sizes (50–70 μm) and a thicker oxygenated surface layer (8 cm) than channelized reaches (40 μm, 5 cm). Total phosphorous amounted for up to 1,500 μg g−1 DW at retentive channelized reaches and 850–1,050 μg g−1 DW at the others. While N-NH4 accumulated in the sediments (60–180 μg g−1 DW), N-NO3 concentrations were generally low (2–5 μg g−1 DW). Benthic respiration was high at all sites (10–20 g O2 m−2 day−1). Our study shows that both hydromorphology and bank vegetation may influence the sediment quality of agricultural streams, though effects are often small and spatially restricted. To increase the efficiency of stream restoration in agricultural landscapes, nutrient and sediment delivery to stream channels need to be minimized by mitigating soil erosion in the catchment.

Responsible editior: Zhihong Xu