Aquatic Sciences

, 81:9 | Cite as

Stream metabolism increases with drainage area and peaks asynchronously across a stream network

  • Francine H. MejiaEmail author
  • Alexander K. Fremier
  • Joseph R. Benjamin
  • J. Ryan Bellmore
  • Adrianne Z. Grimm
  • Grace A. Watson
  • Michael Newsom
Research Article


Quantifying the spatial and temporal dynamics of stream metabolism across stream networks is key to understanding carbon cycling and stream food web ecology. To better understand intra-annual temporal patterns of gross primary production (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (ER) and their variability across space, we continuously measured dissolved oxygen and modeled stream metabolism for an entire year at ten sites across a temperate river network in Washington State, USA. We expected GPP and ER to increase with stream size and peak during summer and autumn months due to warmer temperatures and higher light availability. We found that GPP and ER increased with drainage area and that only four sites adhered to our expectations of summer peaks in GPP and autumn peaks in ER while the rest either peaked in winter, spring or remained relatively constant. Our results suggest the spatial arrangement and temporal patterns of discharge, temperature, light and nutrients within watersheds may result in asynchronies in GPP and ER, despite similar regional climatic conditions. These findings shed light on how temporal dynamics of stream metabolism can shift across a river network, which likely influence the dynamics of carbon cycling and stream food webs at larger scales.


Asynchrony GPP ER River networks Production Respiration Stream metabolism 



The research was supported by the US Bureau of Reclamation Cooperative Agreement to Dr. A. Fremier at the University of Idaho and Washington State University, Project Numbers # R11AC17061 and # R15AC00005. Eric Berntsen helped with the daily discharge estimates. This paper was improved with critical reviews by Dr. Colden Baxter (Idaho State University), Dr. Chris Caudill (University of Idaho), and members of the Fremier Lab (Washington State University). Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Fish and Wildlife Sciences, College of Natural ResourcesUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  2. 2.School of the EnvironmentWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, Cascadia Field Station, School of Environmental and Forest SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  4. 4.U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science CenterBoiseUSA
  5. 5.USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research StationJuneauUSA
  6. 6.GeoSystems Analysis, IncHood RiverUSA
  7. 7.Methow Salmon Recovery FoundationTwispUSA
  8. 8.Geophilia ConsultingPortlandUSA

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