, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 145–157 | Cite as

Soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) transport and retention in tropical, rain forest streams draining a volcanic landscape in Costa Rica: in situ SRP amendment to streams and laboratory studies

  • Frank Triska
  • Catherine M. Pringle
  • John H. Duff
  • Ronald J. Avanzino
  • Gary Zellweger
Original Paper


Soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) transport/retention was determined in two rain forest streams (Salto, Pantano) draining La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica. There, SRP levels can be naturally high due to groundwater enriched by geothermal activity within the surfically dormant volcanic landscape, and subsequently discharged at ambient temperature. Combined field and laboratory approaches simulated high but natural geothermal SRP input with the objective of estimating the magnitude of amended SRP retention within high and low SRP settings and determining the underlying mechanisms of SRP retention. First, we examined short-term SRP retention/transport using combined SRP-conservative tracer additions at high natural in situ concentrations. Second, we attempted to observe a DIN response during SRP amendment as an indicator of biological uptake. Third, we determined SRP release/retention using laboratory sediment assays under control and biologically inhibited conditions. Short-term in situ tracer-SRP additions indicated retention in both naturally high and low SRP reaches. Retention of added SRP mass in Upper Salto (low SRP) was 17% (7.5 mg-P m−2 h−1), and 20% (10.9 mg-P m−2 h−1) in Lower Salto (high SRP). No DIN response in either nitrate or ammonium was observed. Laboratory assays using fresh Lower Salto sediments indicated SRP release (15.4 ± 5.9 μg-P g dry wt.−1 h−1), when incubated in filter sterilized Salto water at ambient P concentration, but retention when incubated in filter sterilized river water amended to 2.0 mg SRP l−1 (233.2 ± 5.8 μg-P g dry wt.−1 h−1). SRP uptake/release was similar in both control- and biocide-treated sediments indicating predominantly abiotic retention. High SRP retention even under biologically saturated conditions, absence of a DIN response to amendment, patterns of desorption following amendment, and similar patterns of retention and release under control and biologically inhibited conditions all indicated predominantly abiotic P flux.


Costa Rica Nutrients Phosphorus Rain forest SRP Streams TP Tropical 



The authors gratefully acknowledge support from National Science Foundation grants DEB 95-28434 and DEB 00-75349, and from the National Research Program, Water Resources, U.S. Geological Survey. We also acknowledge the field assistance of Minor Hildago, La Selva Biological Station.


  1. Bothwell ML (1988) Growth rate responses of lotic periphytic diatoms to experimental phosphorus enrichment: the influence of temperature and light. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 45:261–270Google Scholar
  2. Bothwell ML (1989) Phosphorus-limited growth dynamics of local periphytic diatom communities: areal biomass and cellular growth rate responses. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 46:1293–1301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bourgeois WW, Cole DW, Riekerk H, Gessel SP (1972) Geology and soils of comparative ecosystem study areas, Costa Rica. Contribution N. 11, Institute of Forestry Production, University of Washington, 112 ppGoogle Scholar
  4. Davis JC, Minshall GW (1999) Nitrogen and phosphorus uptake in two Idaho (USA) headwater wilderness streams. Oecologia 119:247–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. D’Angelo DJ, Webster JR, Benefield EF (1991) Mechanisms of stream phosphorus retention: an experimental study. J N Am Benthol Soc 10:225–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Elwood JW, Newbold JD, Trimble AF, Stark RW (1981) The limiting role of phosphorus in a woodland stream ecosystem: effects of P-enrichment on leaf decomposition and primary producers. Ecology 62:146–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Enell M, Lofgren S (1988) Phosphorus in interstitial water: methods and dynamics. Hydrobiologia 170:103–132Google Scholar
  8. Genereux DP, Wood SJ, Pringle CM (2002) Chemical tracing of interbasin groundwater transfer in the lowland rainforest of Costa Rica. J Hydrol 258:163–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gregory SV (1978) Phosphorus dynamics on organics and inorganic substrates in streams. Verh Int Verein Limnol 20:1340–1346Google Scholar
  10. Gunnars A, Blomqvist S (1997) Phosphate exchange across the sediment–water interface when shifting from anoxic to oxic conditions – an experimental comparison of freshwater and brackish-marine systems. Biogeochemistry 37:203–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hall RO Jr, Bernhardt ES, Likens GE (2002) Relating nutrient uptake with transient storage in forested mountain streams. Limnol Oceanogr 47:255–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hart BT, Freeman P, McKelvie ID (1992) Whole stream phosphorus release studies: variation in uptake length with initial phosphorus concentration. Hydrobiologia 235/236:573–584CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hill AR (1982) Phosphorus and major cation mass balances for two rivers during summer flows. Freshwat Biol 12:293–304Google Scholar
  14. Hoffmann JP, Cassell EA, Drake JC, Levine SN, Meals DW, Wang D (1996) Understanding phosphorus cycling, transport and storage in stream ecosystems as a basis for phosphorus management. Technical Report 20. Lake Champlain Basin Program, Grand Isle VTGoogle Scholar
  15. Holtan H, Kamp-Nielsen L, Stuanes AO (1988) Phosphorus in soil, water and sediment: an overview. Hydrobiologia 170:19–34Google Scholar
  16. Horner RR, Welch EB, Seeley MR, Jacoby JM (1990) Responses of periphyton to changes in current velocity, suspended sediment and phosphorus concentration. Freshwat Biol 24:215–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jackman AP, Triska FJ, Duff JH (2006) Is Rhodamine WT conservative in small stream studies? Results from upland and lowland reaches of a tropical stream. Verh Int Verein Limnol 29:1645–1650Google Scholar
  18. Lock MA, John PH (1979) The effect of flow patterns on uptake of phosphorus by river periphyton. Limnol Oceanogr 24:376–383Google Scholar
  19. Meals DW, Levine SN, Wang D, Hoffmann JP, Cassell EA, Drake JC, Pelton DK, Galarneau HM, Brown AB (1999) Retention of spike additions of soluble phosphorus in a northern eutrophic stream. J N Am Benthol Soc 18:185–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Meyer JL (1979) The role of sediments and bryophytes in phosphorus dynamics in a headwater stream ecosystem. Limnol Oceanogr 24:365–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Meyer JL, Likens GE (1979) Transport and transformation of phosphorus in a forest stream ecosystem. Ecology 60:1255–1269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mulholland PJ (1992) Regulation of nutrient concentrations in a temperate forest stream: roles of upland, riparian, and instream processes. Limnol Oceanogr 37:1512–1526Google Scholar
  23. Mulholland PJ, Newbold JD, Elwood JW, Webster JR (1985) Phosphorus spiraling in a woodland stream: seasonal variations. Ecology 66:1012–1023CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mulholland PJ, Steinman AD, Elwood JW (1990) Measurement of phosphorus uptake length in streams: comparison of radiotracer and stable PO4 releases. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 47:2351–2357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mulholland PJ, Marzolf ER, Webster JR, Hart DR, Hendricks SP (1997) Evidence that hyporheic zones increase heterotrophic metabolism and phosphorus uptake in forest streams. Limnol Oceanogr 42:443–451Google Scholar
  26. Munn NL, Meyer JL (1990) Habitat specific solute retention in two small streams: an intersite comparison. Ecology 71:2069–2082CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Newbold JD, Elwood JW, O’Neill RV, Van Winkle W (1981) Measuring nutrient spiraling in streams. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 38:860–863Google Scholar
  28. Pringle CM, Triska FJ (1991) Effects of geothermal groundwater on nutrient dynamics of a lowland Costa Rican stream. Ecology 72:951–965CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pringle CM, Triska FJ, Browder G (1990) Spatial variation in basic chemistry of streams draining a volcanic landscape on Costa Rica’s Atlantic slope. Hydrobiologia 206:73–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pringle CM, Rowe GL, Triska FJ, Fernandez JF, West J (1993) Landscape linkages between geothermal activity and solute composition and ecological response in surface waters draining the Atlantic slope of Costa Rica. Limnol Oceanogr 38:753–774CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ramirez A (2001) Control of benthic assemblages in detritus-based tropical streams. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Georgia, Athens, GAGoogle Scholar
  32. Ramirez A, Pringle CM, Molina L (2003) Effects of stream phosphorus levels on microbial respiration. Freshwat Biol 48:88–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Reddy KR, Flaig E, Scinto LJ, Diaz O, DeBusk TA (1996) Phosphorus assimilation in a stream system of the Lake Okeechobee Basin. Water Res Bull 32: 901–915Google Scholar
  34. Rosemond, AD, Pringle CM, Ramirez A, Paul MJ, Meyer JL (2002) Landscape variation in phosphorus concentration and effects on detritus – based tropical streams. Limnol Oceanogr 47:278–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Solute Transport Workshop (1990) Concepts and methods for assessing solute dynamics in stream ecosystems. J N Am Benthol Soc 9:95–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stockner JG, Shortreed KS (1978) Enhancement of autotrophic production by nutrient addition to a coastal rain-forest stream on Vancouver Island. J Fish Res Board Can 35:28–34Google Scholar
  37. Triska FJ, Kennedy VC, Avanzino RJ, Zellweger GW, Bencala KE (1989) Retention and transport of nutrients in a third order stream in northwestern California: channel processes. Ecology 70:1877–1892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Triska FJ, Duff JH, Avanzino RJ (1993) Patterns of hydrologic exchange and nutrient transformation in the hyporheic zone of a gravel-bottom stream: examining terrestrial-aquatic linkages. Freshwat Biol 29:259–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Triska FJ, Pringle CM, Duff JH, Avanzino RJ, Ramirez A, Ardon M, Jackman AP (2006) Soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) transport and retention in tropical rain forest streams draining a volcanic and geothermally active landscape in Costa Rica: long term concentration and pore water environment. Biogeochemistry (in press)Google Scholar
  40. Webster JR, D’Angelo DJ, Peters GT (1991) Nitrate and phosphate uptake in streams at Coweta Hydrologic Laboratory. Verh Int Verein Limnol 24:1681–1686Google Scholar
  41. Welch EB, Jacoby JM, May CW (1998) Stream quality. In: Naiman RJ, Bilby RE (eds) River ecology and management: lessons from the Pacific coastal ecoreigon. Springer-Verlag, New York, pp 69–94Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank Triska
    • 1
  • Catherine M. Pringle
    • 2
  • John H. Duff
    • 1
  • Ronald J. Avanzino
    • 1
  • Gary Zellweger
    • 1
  1. 1.U.S. Geological SurveyMenlo ParkUSA
  2. 2.Institute of EcologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations