, Volume 128, Issue 2, pp 97–108 | Cite as

Characteristics of softwater streams in Rhode Island. I. A comparative analysis of physical and chemical variables

  • JoAnn M. Burkholder
  • Robert G. Sheath


Thirteen physical and chemical characteristics of five softwater streams in Rhode Island, U.S.A. were examined biweekly to monthly for seventeen months. One first-order, two second-order and two third-order streams were included in the study. The mean annual temperature ranged from 9.4 °C in the spring-fed headwater stream to 14 °C in an open, third-order stream, with seasonal fluctuations of 14.5 ° to 28.0 °C. The heavily shaded first-order stream generally received less than 30% incident light at its surface throughout the year. By contrast, the other streams either were unshaded or were associated with distinct periodicity of incident light quantity due to seasonality of the tree canopy. The mean annual current velocity ranged from 22 to 100 cm s−1 among the streams, pH ranged from 3.7 to 6.4, and specific conductance was generally less than 50 µS cm−1. The first-order stream was associated with lowest mean annual temperature, current velocity, light penetration and nitrate, as well as relatively high and constant silica concentrations. Temperature was negatively correlated with current speed in second- and third-order streams, and temperature was also negatively correlated with light in shaded streams. There was a general pattern in all streams for decreasing pH following precipitation events. Concentrations of total phophorus, nitrate-nitrogen, ammonium-nitrogen and silica were among the lowest reported for lotic systems.


Rhode Island streams lotic riparian shading 


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Copyright information

© Dr W. Junk Publishers 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • JoAnn M. Burkholder
    • 1
  • Robert G. Sheath
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstonU.S.A.

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