Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 1781–1793 | Cite as

Effects of hydromorphology and riparian vegetation on the sediment quality of agricultural low-order streams: consequences for stream restoration

  • Bernadette Teufl
  • Gabriele Weigelhofer
  • Jennifer Fuchsberger
  • Thomas Hein
Research Article


Intensive agricultural land use imposes multiple pressures on streams. More specifically, the loading of streams with nutrient-enriched soil from surrounding crop fields may deteriorate the sediment quality. The current study aimed to find out whether stream restoration may be an effective tool to improve the sediment quality of agricultural headwater streams. We compared nine stream reaches representing different morphological types (forested meandering reaches vs. deforested channelized reaches) regarding sediment structure, sedimentary nutrient and organic matter concentrations, and benthic microbial respiration. Main differences among reach types were found in grain sizes. Meandering reaches featured larger mean grain sizes (50–70 μm) and a thicker oxygenated surface layer (8 cm) than channelized reaches (40 μm, 5 cm). Total phosphorous amounted for up to 1,500 μg g−1 DW at retentive channelized reaches and 850–1,050 μg g−1 DW at the others. While N-NH4 accumulated in the sediments (60–180 μg g−1 DW), N-NO3 concentrations were generally low (2–5 μg g−1 DW). Benthic respiration was high at all sites (10–20 g O2 m−2 day−1). Our study shows that both hydromorphology and bank vegetation may influence the sediment quality of agricultural streams, though effects are often small and spatially restricted. To increase the efficiency of stream restoration in agricultural landscapes, nutrient and sediment delivery to stream channels need to be minimized by mitigating soil erosion in the catchment.


Agricultural streams Sediment structure Sedimentary nutrients Benthic microbial respiration Hydromorphology Stream restoration 



Coefficient of variation


Channelized broadened reaches without riparian forests


Channelized incised reaches without riparian forests


Dissolved organic carbon


Herbertsbrunn stream


Herrnbaumgarten stream


Hipples stream


Meandering natural reaches with riparian forests


Meandering restored reaches with riparian forests


Total nitrogen


Inorganic/organic phosphorous


Total phosphorous


Stronsdorf stream


Stuetzenhofen stream


Total organic carbon



This study was funded by the European Regional Development Fund (European Territorial Cooperation Austria–Czech Republic 2007–2013), the Government of Lower Austria, and the Austrian Ministry of Environment.


  1. APHA (1998) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater, 20th edn. American Public Health Association, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  2. Arango CP, Tank JL, Schaller JL, Royer TV, Bernot MJ, David MB (2007) Benthic organic carbon influences denitrification in streams with high nitrate concentration. Freshwater Biol 52:1210–1222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bhattarai R, Kalita PK, Patel MK (2009) Nutrient transport through a vegetative filter strip with subsurface drainage. J Environ Manage 90:1868–1876CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bernot MJ, Dodds WK (2005) Nitrogen retention, removal, and saturation in lotic ecosystems. Ecosystems 8:442–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bernot MJ, Tank JL, Royer TV, David MB (2006) Nutrient uptake in streams draining agricultural catchments of the midwestern United States. Freshwater Biol 51:499–509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Borin M, Vianello M, Morari F, Zanin G (2005) Effectiveness of buffer strips in removing pollutants in runoff from a cultivated field in north-east Italy. Agr Ecosyst Environ 105:101–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bott TL, Brock JT, Dunn CS, Naimann RJ, Ovink RW, Petersen RC (1985) Benthic community metabolism in four temperate stream systems: an interbiome comparison and evaluation of the river continuum concept. Hydrobiologia 123:3–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boulton AJ (2007) Hyporheic rehabilitation in rivers: restoring vertical connectivity. Freshwater Biol 52:632–650CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brady NC (1990) The nature and properties of soil. Macmillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Buck O, Niyogi DK, Townsend CR (2004) Scale-dependence of land use effects on water quality of streams in agricultural catchments. Environ Pollut 130:287–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bunn SE, Davies PM, Mosisch TD (1999) Ecosystem measures of river health and their response to riparian and catchment degradation. Freshwater Biol 41:333–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cardenas MB, Wilson JL, Zlotnik VA (2004) Impact of heterogeneity, bed forms, and stream curvature on subchannel hyporheic exchange. Water Resour Res 40:W08307. doi:10.1029/2004WR003008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carling PA (1992) In-stream hydraulics and sediment transport. In: Calow P, Petts GE (eds) The rivers handbook. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 101–125Google Scholar
  14. Craig LS, Palmer MA, Richardson DC, Filoso S, Bernhardt ES, Bledsoe BP, Doyle MW, Groffman PM, Hassett B, Kaushal SS, Mayer PM, Smith SM, Wilcock PR (2008) Stream restoration strategies for reducing river nitrogen loads. Front Ecol Environ 6:529–538CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Crenshaw CL, Grimm NB, Zeglin LH, Sheibley RW, Dahm CN, Pershall AD (2010) Dissolved inorganic nitrogen dynamics in the hyporheic zone of reference and human-altered southwestern U.S. streams. Fundam Appl Limnol Arch Hydrobiol 176:391–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Demars BOL, Manson JR, Olafsson JS, Gislason GM, Gudmundsdottir R, Woodward G, Reiss J, Pichler DE, Rasmussen JJ, Friberg N (2011) Temperature and the metabolic balance of streams. Freshwater Biol 56:1106–1121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Doering M, Uehlinger U, Ackermann T, Woodtli M, Tockner K (2011) Spatiotemporal heterogeneity of soil and sediment respiration in a river-floodplain mosaic (Tagliamento, NE Italy). Freshwater Biol. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2427.2010.02569.x
  18. Dosskey MG, Helmers MJ, Eisenhauer DE, Franti TG, Hoagland KD (2002) Assessment of concentrated flow through riparian buffers. J Soil Water Conserv 57:336–343Google Scholar
  19. Eaton AD, Franson MA (2005) Standard methods for the examination of water & wastewater, 21st edn. American Public Health Association, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  20. Fellows CS, Clapcott JE, Udy JW, Bunn SE, Harch BD, Smith MJ, Davies PM (2006) Benthic metabolism as an indicator of stream ecosystem health. Hydrobiologia 572:71–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gaitzenauer C (2012) Nutrient retention along stream banks of different morphology. Masters Thesis, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  22. Gordon LJ, Peterson GD, Bennett EM (2007) Agricultural modifications of hydrological flows create ecological surprises. Trends Ecol Evol 23:211–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gücker B, Pusch MT (2006) Regulation of nutrient uptake in eutrophic lowland streams. Limnol Oceanogr 51:1443–1453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hancock PJ (2002) Human impacts on the stream–groundwater exchange zone. Environ Manage 29:763–781CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Heinrich M, Hofmann T, Roetzel R (2004) Geologie und Weinviertel. Geologische Bundesanstalt & Weinkomitee Weinviertel, WienGoogle Scholar
  26. Hill BH, Hall RK, Husby P, Herlihy AT, Dunne M (2000) Interregional comparisons of sediment microbial respiration in streams. Freshwater Biol 44:213–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jones KL, Poole GC, Meyer JL, Bumback W, Kramer EA (2006) Quantifying expected ecological response to natural resource legislation: a case study of riparian buffers, aquatic habitat, and trout populations. Ecol Soc 11:15Google Scholar
  28. Kasahara T, Hill AR (2006) Hyporheic exchange flows induced by constructed riffles and steps in lowland streams in southern Ontario, Canada. Hydrol Process 20:4287–4305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kronvang B, Jeppesen E, Conley DJ, Søndergaard M, Larsen SE, Ovesen NB, Carstensen J (2005) Nutrient pressures and ecological responses to nutrient loading reductions in Danish streams, lakes and coastal waters. J Hydrol 304:274–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Laub BG, Baker DW, Bledsoe BP, Palmer MA (2012) Range of variability of channel complexity in urban, restored and forested reference streams. Freshwater Biol 57:1076–1095, Appl IssueCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lautz LK, Siegel DI, Bauer RL (2006) Impact of debris dams on hyporheic interaction along a semi-arid stream. Hydrol Process 20:183–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lefebvre S, Marmonier P, Pinay G (2004) Stream regulation and nitrogen dynamics in sediment interstices: comparison of natural and straightened sectors of a third-order stream. River Res Applic 20:499–512CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lefebvre S, Clément J-C, Pinay G, Thenail C, Durand P, Marmonier P (2007) N-nitrate signature in low-order streams: effects of land cover and agricultural practices. Ecol Appl 17:2333–2346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lisle T (1979) A sorting mechanism for a riffle-pool sequence. Geol Soc Am Bull 11:1142–1157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lowrance R, Altier LS, Newbold JD, Schnabel RR, Groffman PM, Denver JM, Correll DL, Gilliam JW, Robinson JL, Brinsfield RB, Staver KW, Lucas W, Todd AH (1997) Water quality functions of riparian forest buffers in Chesapeake Bay Watersheds. Environ Manage 21:687–712CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Malcolm IA, Middlemas CA, Soulsby C, Middlemas SJ, Youngson AF (2010) Hyporheic zone processes in a canalised agricultural stream: implications for salmonid embryo survival. Fundam Appl Limnol, Arch Hydrobiol 176:319–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Montreuil O, Merot P, Marmonier P (2010) Estimation of nitrate removal by riparian wetlands and streams in agricultural catchments: effect of discharge and stream order. Freshwater Biol 55:2305–2318Google Scholar
  38. Morgan AM, Royer TV, David MB, Gentry EL (2006) Relationships among nutrients, chlorophyll-a, and dissolved oxygen in agricultural streams in Illinois. J Environ Qual 35:1110–1117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mutz M, Kalbus E, Meinecke S (2007) Effect of instream wood on vertical water flux in low-energy sand bed flume experiments. Water Resour Res 43:W10424. doi:10.1029/2006WR005676 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nakamura F, Swanson FJ (1993) Effects of coarse woody debris on morphology and sediment storage of a mountain stream system in western Oregon. Earth Surf Proc Land 18:43–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Niyogi DK, Koren M, Arbuckle CJ, Townsend CR (2007) Longitudinal changes in biota along four New Zealand streams: declines and improvements in stream health related to land use. New Zeal J Mar Fresh 41:63–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. ÖNORM L 1061–2 (2002) Physical soil analyses—estimation of grain size distribution of mineral soils, part 2: fine sediments. Austrian Standardisation Institute, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  43. Osborne LL, Kovacic DA (1993) Riparian vegetated buffer strips in water-quality restoration and stream management. Freshwater Biol 29:243–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Palmer MA, Menninger HL, Bernhardt E (2010) River restoration, habitat heterogeneity and biodiversity: a failure of theory or practice? Freshwater Biol 55(suppl 1):205–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Poff NL, Zimmerman JKH (2010) Ecological responses to altered flow regimes: a literature review to inform the science and management of environmental flows. Freshwater Biol 55:194–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Revsbech NP, Risgaard-Petersen N, Schramm A, Nielsen LP (2006) Nitrogen transformations in stratified aquatic microbial ecosystems. Anton Leeuw 90:361–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Riley RH, Townsend CR, Niyogi DK, Arbuckle CA, Peacock KA (2003) Headwater stream response to grassland agricultural development in New Zealand. New Zeal J Mar Fresh 37:389–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Roberts WM, Stutter MI, Haygarth PM (2012) Phosphorus retention and remobilization in vegetated buffer strips: a Review. J Environ Qual 41:389–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ruban V, Lopez-Sanchez JF, Pardo P, Rauret G, Muntau H, Quevauviller P (2001) Harmonized protocol and certified reference material for the determination of extractable contents of phosphorus in freshwater sediments—a synthesis of recent works. Fresen J Anal Chem 370:224–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Bechmann M, Gascuel-Odoux C, Hofman G, Kronvang B, Litaor MI, Lo Porto A, Newell-Price P, Rubæk G (2011) In: Schoumans OF, Chardon WJ (eds) COST Action 869—mitigation options for reducing nutrient emissions from agriculture. Alterra report. Wageningen UR, WageningenGoogle Scholar
  51. Shields FD Jr, Pezeshki SR, Wilson GV, Wu W, Dabney SM (2008) Rehabilitation of an incised stream with plant materials: the dominance of geomorphic processes. Ecol Soc 13:54Google Scholar
  52. SSSA book series 5 (2005) Methods of soil analysis Part 3—chemical methods. 4th edn., Soil Science Society of America Inc., American Society of Agronomy Inc., Madison, WI. USA.Google Scholar
  53. Verstraeten G, Poesen J, Gillijns K, Govers G (2006) The use of riparian vegetated filter strips to reduce river sediments loads: an overestimated control measure? Hydrol Process 20:4259–4267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Weigelhofer G, Fuchsberger J, Teufl B, Welti N, Hein T (2012) Effects of riparian forest buffers on in-stream nutrient retention in agricultural catchments. J Environ Qual 41:373–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wood PJ, Armitage PD (1997) Biological effects of fine sediment in the lotic environment. Environ Manage 21:203–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wood PJ, Armitage PD (1999) Sediment deposition in a small lowland stream—management implications. Regul River 15:199–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Yamada H, Nakamura F (2002) Effect of fine sediment deposition and channel works on periphyton biomass in the Makomanai river, Northern Japan. River Res Applic 18:481–493CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernadette Teufl
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gabriele Weigelhofer
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jennifer Fuchsberger
    • 1
  • Thomas Hein
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.WasserCluster Lunz GmbHLunz am SeeAustria
  2. 2.Department of LimnologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  3. 3.Institute of Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem ManagementUniversity of Natural Resources and Life SciencesViennaAustria

Personalised recommendations