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This research was supported by the Pennswood Fund no. 2 for Environmental Research and the U.S. National Science Foundation grant DEB-9308000 to L.A.K. and J.D.N. T.J.B. was supported by an FWF Erwin Schrödinger grant (J1879-BIO) during manuscript preparation at the Stroud Water Research Center.
We monitored streamwater and streambed sediment porewaters from White Clay Creek (WCC), SE Pennsylvania, for dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved oxygen (DO) and conductivity to investigate organic matter processing within the hyporheic zone. Dissolved organic carbon and DO concentrations were higher in the streamwater than in the porewaters and, in many cases, concentrations continued to diminish with increasing depth into the streambed.
Hydrological exchange data demonstrated that the permeability of the stream bed declines with depth and constrains downwelling, effectively isolating porewaters >30 cm from streamwater.
End-member mixing analysis (EMMA) based on conductivity documented a DOC source and DO sink in the hyporheic zone. We calculated hyporheic streambed DOC fluxes and respiration from the EMMA results and estimates of water flux. Based upon our calculations of biodegradable DOC entering the hyporheic zone, we estimate that DOC supports 39% of the hyporheic zone respiration, with the remaining 61% presumably being supported by entrained particulate organic carbon. Hyporheic respiration averaged 0.38 g C m)2 d)1, accounted for 41% of whole ecosystem respiration, and increased baseflow ecosystem efficiency from 46 to 59%.
Advective transport of labile organic molecules into the streambed concentrates microbial activity in near-surface regions of the hyporheic zone. Steep gradients in biogeochemical activity could explain how a shallow and hydrologically constrained hyporheic zone can dramatically influence organic matter processing at the ecosystem scale.
Battin, T. J., L. A. Kaplan, J. D. Newbold, and S. P. Hendricks (2003): A mixing model analysis of stream solute dynamics and the contribution of a hyporheic zone to ecosystem function. Freshwater Biology:48:995-1014.