The influence of within-stream disturbance on dissolved nutrient levels during spates
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In rivers, variations in concentrations of many dissolved nutrients occur during spates. Increases are usually attributed to concentrated point or non-point inputs, and decreases to dilution associated with rainfall. Increased discharge disturbs sediments and benthic communities, but the effects of such disturbance on nutrient levels are difficult to isolate. Measurements of nutrient levels over three artificial spates revealed that substantial variations in dissolved organic carbon, dissolved phosphate, silicate, nitrate, and potassium levels could result from increased discharge in the absence of allochthonous inputs. Variations were closely related to peaks in suspended solids concentration or water height. Increases in biochemical oxygen demand and suspended bacteria also occurred.
Variations in phosphate and silicate could be accounted for by a balance between release of ‘sediment interstitial water’ and exchange processes involving suspended and freshly exposed sediment.
An increase in nitrate, during one spate, was probably due to a reduction in the effect of benthic denitrification.
Small peaks in dissolved organic matter concentration were detected over each spate.
We propose that within-stream disturbance is a factor which may contribute to variations in dissolved nutrient concentration during the rising hydrograph in natural spates.
Keywordsrivers artificial spates nutrients D.O.C. B.O.D.
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