, Volume 124, Issue 1-2, pp 95-112

Nitrate Depletion During Within-Stream Transport: Effects of Exchange Processes Between Streamwater, the Hyporheic and Riparian Zones

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Abstract

In regions with intensive agriculture and shallow hydrological systems, headstreams are often polluted with nitrate even at the springs. In North-West France, nitrate concentration was seen to decrease downstream during baseflow conditions when the stream flows on granite, but this does not occur on schist. In order to explain this difference in behaviour, we analysed the groundwaters and surveyed the redox conditions (using a field test for ferrous iron) in near-bank wet meadows as well as in the hyporheic zone. We show that the wet meadow groundwater was denitrified and that oxygen and nitrate were presentaround the stream channel in a wide zone on granite,compared with a very restricted zone on schist. Ongranite, exchanges between the stream and the hyporheic zone are favoured by sandy or peaty material having high hydraulic conductivity. This gives rise to two processes (1) lateral inflow of denitrified water from wet meadows, (2) in the opposite direction, supply of stream nitrate to denitrification sites in the hyporheic zone. In the second case, a high hydraulic conductivity also reduces the water residence time and limits denitrification, resulting in high levels of oxygen and nitrate. On schist, the low hydraulic conductivity prevents an efficientconnection between surface and subsurface waters.