, Volume 623, Issue 1, pp 53–62 | Cite as

Centimeter-scale stream substratum heterogeneity and metabolic rates

  • Kymberly C. WilsonEmail author
  • Walter K. Dodds
Primary research paper


Spatial heterogeneity of substrata in streams may influence dissolved oxygen (O2) transport and nutrient forms. We studied the relationship between scales of substratum heterogeneity and O2. Heterogeneous systems could have greater respiration rates as a result of increased interfacial surfaces in the biogeochemically active areas between oxic and anoxic zones. We used grids with twelve 7 × 3.5 cm cells; half the cells were filled with sand and the other half with gravel to quantify the effect of centimeter-scale heterogeneity on respiration. The sand and gravel cells were arranged within the grids to give low, medium, and high heterogeneity. Grids were incubated for 15–17 days in a prairie stream, and then whole grid respiration was analyzed in closed recirculating chambers. Depth to anoxia and substratum metabolism were calculated from O2 microelectrode profiles measured in each cell of the grid and compared with data from natural stream transects from agricultural, urban, and prairie land use types. Shannon–Weaver (H′) diversity and “probability of change” indices were also used to compare heterogeneity of the grids to the natural stream transects. No significant differences were found among grid heterogeneity levels for respiration rate, but the anoxic interface was deeper in the gravel of higher heterogeneity grids, probably due to greater transport rates of O2 in the coarse-grained substratum. The H′ and probability of change indices indicated that the grids had levels of heterogeneity within the range of real streams. Grid depth to anoxia and substratum metabolism rates were similar to those found in streams, though less variable. In streams, H′ and probability of change values showed a slight difference among land use types, with some urban and agricultural sites displaying very low heterogeneity.


Stream Substratum O2 microelectrodes Nutrients Dissolved oxygen 



We thank Dr. Kim With for input, Dolly Gudder for editing the manuscript, and Konza LTER-NSF and the LINXII NSF project for funding. This is contribution no. 05-329-J from the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station.


  1. Atkinson, B. L., M. R. Grace, B. T. Hart & K. E. N. Vanderkruk, 2008. Sediment instability affects the rate and location of primary production and respiration in a sand-bed stream. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 27: 581–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Carlton, R. G. & R. Wetzel, 1987. Distributions and fates of oxygen in periphyton communities. Canadian Journal of Botany 65: 1031–1037.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dent, C. L., N. B. Grimm & S. G. Fisher, 2001. Multiscale effects of surface-subsurface exchange on stream water nutrient concentrations. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 20: 162–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dodds, W. K., 1991. Micro-environmental characteristics of filamentous algal communities in flowing freshwaters. Freshwater Biology 25: 199–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dodds, W. K., 2006. Eutrophication and trophic state in rivers and streams. Limnology and Oceanography 51: 671–680.Google Scholar
  6. Dodds, W. K. & J. Brock, 1998. A portable chamber for in situ determination of benthic metabolism. Freshwater Biology 39: 49–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dodds, W. K., R. E. Hutson, A. C. Eichem, M. A. Evans, D. A. Gudder, K. M. Fritz & L. Gray, 1996a. The relationship of floods, drying, flow and light to primary production and producer biomass in a prairie stream. Hydrobiologia 333: 151–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dodds, W. K., C. A. Randel & C. C. Edler, 1996b. Microcosms for aquifer research: application to colonization of various sized particles by ground-water microorganisms. Groundwater 34: 756–759.Google Scholar
  9. Dodds, W. K., M. A. Evans-White, N. M. Gerlanc, L. Gray, D. A. Gudder, M. J. Kemp, A. L. López, D. Stagliano, E. A. Straus, J. L. Tank, M. R. Whiles & W. M. Wollheim, 2000. Quantification of the nitrogen cycle in a prairie stream. Ecosystems 3: 574–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dodds, W. K., K. Gido, M. R. Whiles, K. M. Fritz & W. J. Matthews, 2004. Life on the edge: the ecology of Great Plains prairie streams. BioScience 54: 205–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Findlay, S., 1995. Importance of surface-subsurface exchange in stream ecosystems: the hyporheic zone. Limnology and Oceanography 40: 159–164.Google Scholar
  12. Fuss, C. L. & L. A. Smock, 1996. Spatial and temporal variation of microbial respiration rates in a blackwater stream. Freshwater Biology 36: 339–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gallon, C., L. Hare & A. Tessier, 2008. Surviving in anoxic surroundings: how burrowing aquatic insects create an oxic microhabitat. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 27: 570–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Glud, R. N., N. B. Ramsing & N. P. Revsbech, 1992. Photosynthesis and photosynthesis-coupled respiration in natural biofilms quantified with oxygen microsensors. Journal of Phycology 28: 51–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gray, L. J. & W. K. Dodds, 1998. Structure and dynamics of aquatic communities. In Knapp, A. K., J. M. Briggs, D. C. Hartnett & S. L. Collins (eds), Grassland Dynamics: Long-term Ecological Research in Tallgrass Prairie. Oxford University Press, New York: 177–189.Google Scholar
  16. Gray, L. J., G. L. Macpherson, J. K. Koelliker & W. K. Dodds, 1998. Hydrology and aquatic chemistry. In Knapp, A. K., J. M. Briggs, D. C. Hartnett & S. L. Collins (eds), Grassland Dynamics: Long-term Ecological Research in Tallgrass Prairie. Oxford University Press, New York: 159–176.Google Scholar
  17. Jacinthe, P. A., P. M. Groffman, A. J. Gold & A. Mosier, 1998. Patchiness in microbial nitrogen transformations in groundwater in a riparian forest. Journal of Environmental Quality 27: 156–164.Google Scholar
  18. Kemp, M. J. & W. K. Dodds, 2001a. Centimeter-scale patterns in dissolved oxygen and nitrification rates in a prairie stream. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 20: 347–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kemp, M. J. & W. K. Dodds, 2001b. Spatial and temporal patterns of nitrogen concentrations in pristine and agriculturally-influenced streams. Biogeochemistry 53: 125–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Marzolf, E. R., P. J. Mulholland & A. D. Steinman, 1994. Improvements to the diurnal upstream-downstream dissolved oxygen change technique for determining whole-stream metabolism in small streams. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 51: 1591–1599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mulholland, P. J., C. S. Fellows, J. L. Tank, N. B. Grimm, J. R. Webster, S. K. Hamilton, E. Martí, L. Ashkenas, W. B. Bowden, W. K. Dodds, W. H. McDowell, M. J. Paul & B. J. Peterson, 2001. Inter-biome comparison of factors controlling stream metabolism. Freshwater Biology 46: 1503–1517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Murdock, J. N. & W. K. Dodds, 2007. Linking benthic algal biomass to stream substratum topography. Journal of Phycology 43: 449–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. O’Brien, J. M., W. K. Dodds, K. C. Wilson, J. N. Murdock & J. Eichmiller, 2007. The saturation of N cycling in Central Plains streams: 15N experiments across a broad gradient of nitrate concentrations. Biogeochemistry 84: 31–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Paul, M. J. & J. L. Meyer, 2001. Streams in the urban landscape. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 32: 333–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rathbun, R. E., D. W. Stephens, D. J. Shultz & D. Y. Tai, 1978. Laboratory studies of gas tracers for reaeration. Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineering 104: 215–229.Google Scholar
  26. Revsbech, N. P. & B. B. Jørgensen, 1986. Microelectrodes: their use in microbial ecology. In Marshall, K. C. (ed.), Advances in Microbial Ecology, Volume 9. Plenum Press, New York: 293–352.Google Scholar
  27. Revsbech, N. P., B. B. Jørgensen & O. Brix, 1981. Primary production of microalgae in sediments measured by oxygen microprofiles, H14CO2-fixation and oxygen exchange methods. Limnology and Oceanography 26: 717–730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Shannon, C. E. & W. Weaver, 1963. The Mathematical Theory of Communication. University of Illinois Press, Urbana.Google Scholar
  29. Sheibley, R. W., J. H. Duff, A. P. Jackman & F. J. Triska, 2003. Inorganic nitrogen transformations in the bed of the Shingobee River, Minnesota: integrating hydrologic and biological processes using sediment perfusion cores. Limnology and Oceanography 48: 1129–1140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Stevens, M. H. H. & K. W. Cummins, 1999. Effects of long-term disturbance on riparian vegetation and in-stream characteristics. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 14: 1–17.Google Scholar
  31. Wilson, K.·C., 2005. Hyporeic oxygen flux and substratum spatial heterogeneity: effects on whole-stream dynamics. Masters Thesis, Kansas State University, Manhattan: 62 pp.Google Scholar
  32. Young, R. G. & A. D. Huryn, 1998. Comment: improvements to the diurnal upstream-downstream dissolved oxygen change technique for determining whole-stream metabolism in small streams. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 55: 1784–1785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Arizona Department of Water ResourcesPhoenixUSA
  2. 2.Division of BiologyKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

Personalised recommendations