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Phosphorus and nitrogen storage, partitioning, and export in a large gravel bed river

Taube, Nadine, Ryan, M. Cathryn, He, Jianxun, Valeo, Caterina
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.657 pp. 717-730
algae, biomass, gravel, hyporheic zone, macrophytes, nitrogen, phosphorus, pollution load, rivers, stream channels, surface water, wastewater
Nutrient dynamics in a 25 km long treated wastewater effluent impacted reach of a large, gravel-bed river were evaluated in five river compartments: surficial sediment, surface water, hyporheic zone water, and aquatic biomass (including epilithic algae and macrophytes). Nutrient storage within, and export from, the river reach, was quantified to assess the impact of WWTP effluent on nutrient dynamics.More than 98% of N and P storage was found in the surficial river bed sediment, where it is available to support epilithic algal and macrophyte growth. Nutrient export from the river reach by sediment, hyporheic water, and biomass were small compared to water column transport. The N:P ratios for the five different compartments suggested that the water column was severely P limited, whereas sediment, hyporheic water, and aquatic biomass tended towards co-limitation and N limitation.Within the river reach, the majority of P was stored immediately downstream of the WWTP effluent outfall, whereas N was retained at a higher rate relative to P in the remainder of the reach. Correlation analysis of nutrient exchange between different compartments suggested that multiple nutrient compartments should be considered when establishing nutrient loading criteria. Nutrient analysis in multiple compartments in the river can add valuable insight into nutrient dynamics and nutrient limitation.