, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 476–487 | Cite as

Nutrient dynamics in the lower Mississippi River floodplain: Comparing present and historic hydrologic conditions

  • Harold L. Schramm
  • Michael S. Cox
  • Todd E. Tietjen
  • Andrew W. Ezell


Alterations to the lower Mississippi River-floodplain ecosystem to facilitate commercial navigation and to reduce flooding of agricultural lands and communities in the historic floodplain have changed the hydrologic regime. As a result, the flood pulse usually has a lower water level, is of shorter duration, has colder water temperatures, and a smaller area of floodplain is inundated. Using average hydrologic conditions and water temperatures, we used established nitrogen and phosphorus processes in soils, an aquatic ecosystem model, and fish bioenergetic models to provide approximations of nitrogen and phosphorus flux in Mississippi River flood waters for the present conditions of a 2-month (mid-March to mid-May) flood pulse and for a 3-month (mid-March to mid-June), historic flood pulse. We estimated that the soils and aquatic biota can remove or sequester 542 and 976 kg nitrogen ha−1 during the present and historic hydrologic conditions, respectively. Phosphorus, on the other hand, will be added to the water largely as a result of anaerobic soil conditions but moderated by biological uptake by aquatic biota during both present and historic hydrologic conditions. The floodplain and associated water bodies may provide an important management opportunity for reducing downstream transport of nitrogen in Mississippi River waters.

Key Words

aquatic ecosystem fish flood pulse nitrogen phosphorus soils 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Bajer, P. G., G. W. Whitledge, and R. S. Hayward. 2004. Widespread consumption-dependent systematic error in fish bioenergetics models and its implications. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 61: 2158–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker, J. A., K. J. Killgore, and R. L. Kasul. 1991. Aquatic habitats and fish communities in the lower Mississippi River. Reviews in Aquatic Sciences 3: 313–56.Google Scholar
  3. Biggs, J. F., R. A. Smith, and M. J. Duncan. 1999. Velocity and sediment disturbance of periphyton in headwater streams: biomass and metabolism. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 18: 222–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bohn, H. L., B. L. McNeal, and G. A. O’Conner. 2001. Soil Chemistry, third edition. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY, USA.Google Scholar
  5. Brady, N. C. and R. R. Weil. 2008. The Nature and Properties of Soils, fourteenth edition. Pearson, Columbus, OH, USA.Google Scholar
  6. Carlander, K. D. 1969. Handbook of Freshwater Fishery Biology. Volume one. Iowa State University Press, Ames, IA, USA.Google Scholar
  7. Cobb, S. P., C. H. Pennington, J. A. Baker, and J. E. Scott. 1984. Fishery and ecological investigations of main stem levee borrow pits along the lower Mississippi River. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mississippi River Commission, Vicksburg, MS, USA.Google Scholar
  8. Coveney, M. F., D. L. Stites, E. F. Lowe, L. E. Battoe, and R. Conrow. 2002. Nutrient removal from eutrophic lake water by wetland filtration. Ecological Engineering 19: 141–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dantas, M. C. and J. L. Attayde. 2007. Nitrogen and phosphorus content of some temperate and tropical freshwater fishes. Journal of Fish Biology 70: 100–08.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Eggleton, M. A. 2001. Catfish feeding ecology and bioenergetics in a large river-floodplain ecosystem. Ph.D. Dissertation. Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, USA.Google Scholar
  11. Fisher, J. and M. C. Acreman. 2004. Wetland nutrient removal: a review of the evidence. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 8: 673–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Forshay, K. J. and E. H. Stanley. 2005. Rapid nitrate loss and denitrification in a temperate river floodplain. Biogeochemistry 75: 43–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Furch, K. and W. J. Junk. 1993. Seasonal nutrient dynamics in an Amazonian floodplain lake. Archiv für Hydrobiologie 128: 277–85.Google Scholar
  14. Galat, D. L., L. H. Fredrickson, D. D. Humburg, K. J. Bataille, J. R. Bodie, J. Dohrenwend, G. T. Gelwicks, J. E. Havel, D. L. Helmers, J. B. Hooker, J. R. Jones, M. F. Knowlton, J. Kubisiak, J. Mazourek, A. C. McColpin, R. B. Renken, and R. D. Semlitsch. 1998. Flooding to restore connectivity of regulated, large-river wetlands. BioScience 48: 721–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gambrell, R. P. and W. H. Patrick. 1978. Chemical and microbiological properties of anaerobic soils and sediments. p. 375–423. In D. D. Hook and R. M. M. Crawford (eds.) Plant Life in Anaerobic Environments. Ann Arbor Science, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.Google Scholar
  16. Gergel, S. E., S. R. Carpenter, and E. H. Stanley. 2005. Do dams and levees impact nitrogen cycling? Simulating the effects of flood alterations on floodplain denitrification. Global Change Biology 11: 1352–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Goolsby, D. A. and W. A. Battaglin. 2000. Nitrogen in the Mississippi Basin—estimating sources and predicting flux to the Gulf of Mexico. U.S. Geological Survey, Kansas Water Science Center, Lawrence, KS, USA.Google Scholar
  18. Graham, K. 1999. A review of the biology and management of blue catfish. American Fisheries Society Symposium 24: 37–49.Google Scholar
  19. Gutreuter, S., A. D. Bartels, K. Irons, and M. B. Sandheinrich. 1999. Evaluation of the flood-pulse concept based on statistical models of growth of selected fishes of the upper Mississippi River system. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 56: 2282–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hansen, M. J., D. Biosclair, S. B. Brandt, S. W. Hewett, J. F. Kitchell, M. C. Lucas, and J. J. Ney. 1993. Applications of bioenergetics models to fish ecology and management: where do we go from here? Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 122: 1019–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hanson, P. C., T. B. Johnson, D. E. Schindler, and J. F. Kitchell. 1997. Fish Bioenergetics 3.0. University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Limnology and Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, Madison, WI, USA.Google Scholar
  22. Helmer, C. and S. Kunst. 1998. Simultaneous nitrification/denitrification in an aerobic biofilm system. Water Science and Technology 37: 183–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hillebrand, H. and M. Kahlert. 2001. Effect of grazing and nutrient supply on periphyton biomass and nutrient stoichiometry in habitats of different productivity. Limnology and Oceanography 46: 1881–98.Google Scholar
  24. Junk, W. J., P. B. Bayley, and R. E. Sparks. 1989. The flood pulse concept in river-floodplain ecosystems. p. 110–127. In D. P. Dodge (ed.) Proceedings of the International Large Rivers Symposium. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Special Publication 106, Ottawa, ON, Canada.Google Scholar
  25. Lindau, C. W., R. D. DeLaune, and J. H. Pardue. 1994. Inorganic nitrogen processing and assimilation in a forested wetland. Hydrobiologia 277: 171–78.Google Scholar
  26. Lowery, D. R., M. P. Taylor, R. L. Warden, and F. H. Taylor. 1987. Fish and benthic communities of eight lower Mississippi River floodplain lakes. Lower Mississippi River Environmental Program Report 6. Mississippi River Commission, Vicksburg, MS, USA.Google Scholar
  27. Minckley, W. L., J. E. Johnson, J. N. Rinne, and S. E. Willoughby. 1970. Foods of buffalofishes, genus Ictiobus, in central Arizona reservoirs. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 99: 333–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mitchell, D. S. 1994. Floodplain wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin: management, issues and challenges. p. 1–5. In T. Sharly and C. Huggin (eds.) Murray-Darling Basin Floodplain Wetlands Management. Murray-Darling Commission, Canberra, ACT, Australia.Google Scholar
  29. Mitsch, W. J., J. W. Day, Jr., J. W. Gilliam, P. M. Groffman, D. L. Hey, G. W. Randall, and N. Wang. 2001. Reducing nitrogen loading to the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River Basin: strategies to counter a persistent ecological problem. BioScience 51: 373–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mitsch, W. J. and J. G. Gosselink. 1986. Wetlands. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, NY, USA.Google Scholar
  31. Park, R. A. and J. S. Clough. 2006. Aquatox. EPA release 2.2. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, USA.Google Scholar
  32. Patrick, W. H. Jr and R. D. Delaune. 1972. Characterization of the oxidized and reduced zones in flooded soil. Soil Science Society of America Proceedings 36: 573–76.Google Scholar
  33. Rabalais, N. N., R. E. Turner, and D. Scavia. 2002. Beyond science into policy: Gulf hypoxia and the Mississippi River. BioScience 52: 129–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rissotto, S. P. and R. E. Turner. 1985. Annual fluctuations in abundance of the commercial fisheries of the Mississippi River and tributaries. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 5: 557–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ross, S. T. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi. Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, Jackson, MS, USA.Google Scholar
  36. Rudstam, L. G., F. P. Binkowski, and M. A. Miller. 1994. A bioenergetic model for analysis of food consumption patterns of bloater in Lake Michigan. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 123: 344–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rutherford, D. A., W. E. Kelso, C. F. Bryan, and G. C. Constant. 1995. Influence of physicochemical characteristics on annual growth increments of four fishes from the lower Mississippi River. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 124: 687–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schaus, M. H., M. J. Vanni, and T. E. Wissing. 2002. Biomass-dependent diet shifts in omnivorous gizzard shad: implications for growth, food web, and ecosystem effects. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 131: 40–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schramm, H. L., Jr. 2004. Status and management of fisheries in the Mississippi River. p. 301–33. In R. Welcomme and T. Petr (eds.) Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on the Management of Large Rivers for Fisheries Volume 1. RAP Publication 2004/16, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand.Google Scholar
  40. Schramm, H. L., Jr. and M. A. Eggleton. 2006. Applicability of the flood-pulse concept in a temperate floodplain river ecosystem: thermal and temporal components. River Research and Application 22: 543–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schramm, H. L., Jr., M. A. Eggleton, and R. M. Mayo. 2000. Habitat conservation and creation: invoking the flood-pulse concept to enhance fisheries in the lower Mississippi River. Polish Archives for Hydrobiology 47: 45–62.Google Scholar
  42. Schramm, H. L., Jr., M. A. Eggleton, and R. B. Minnis. 1999. Spatial analysis of floodplain habitat critical to lower Mississippi River fishes. Mississippi Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Mississippi State, MS, USA.Google Scholar
  43. Sereda, J. M., J. J. Hudson, W. D. Taylor, and E. Demers. 2007. Fish as sources and sinks of nutrients in lakes: direct estimates, comparison with plankton and stoichiometry. Freshwater Biology 53: 278–89.Google Scholar
  44. Stanford, G., S. Dzienia, and R. A. Vander Pol. 1975. Effect of temperature on denitrification rate in soils. Soil Science Society of America Proceedings 39: 867–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tilman, D., S. S. Kilham, and P. Kilham. 1982. Phytoplankton community ecology: the role of limiting nutrients. Annual Reviews in Ecology and Systematics 13: 349–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tockner, K., D. Pennetzdorfer, N. Reiner, F. Schiemer, and J. V. Ward. 1999. Hydrological connectivity, and the exchange of organic matter and nutrients in a dynamic river-floodplain system (Danube, Austria). Freshwater Biology 41: 521–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Turner, F. T. and W. H. Patrick, Jr. 1968. Chemical changes in waterlogged soils as a result of oxygen depletion. Transactions of the 9th International Congress of Soil Science 4: 53–56.Google Scholar
  48. USGS (United States Geological Service). 2008. Summary Statistics for NASQAN Data—Mississippi Basin 1996–2005: Mississippi River at St. Francisville, Louisiana (07373420). [Online]. Available at (Verified 19 Feb. 2008)Google Scholar
  49. Walker, T. W. 2002. Soil fertility management of precision-leveled rice fields in the Mississippi Delta. Ph.D. Dissertation, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, USA.Google Scholar
  50. Ward, J. V. and J. A. Stanford. 1995. Ecological connectivity in alluvial river ecosystems and its disruption by flow regulation. Regulated Rivers: Research and Management 11: 105–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wetzel, R. G. 1993. Microcommunities and microgradients: linking nutrient regeneration, microbial mutualism, and high sustained aquatic primary production. Aquatic Ecology 27: 3–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. White, J. R. and K. R. Reddy. 2003. Nitrification and denitrification rates of Everglades wetland soils along a phosphorus-impacted gradient. Journal of Environmental Quality 32: 2436–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Yako, L. A., J. M. Dettmers, and R. A. Stein. 1996. Feeding preferences of omnivorous gizzard shad as influenced by fish size and zooplankton density. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 125: 753–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harold L. Schramm
    • 1
  • Michael S. Cox
    • 2
  • Todd E. Tietjen
    • 3
  • Andrew W. Ezell
    • 4
  1. 1.Mississippi Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitU.S. Geological SurveyMississippi StateUSA
  2. 2.Department of Plant and Soil Sciences Mississippi State UniversityMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA
  3. 3.Department of Wildlife and FisheriesMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA
  4. 4.Department of ForestryMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA

Personalised recommendations