Combined effects of leaf litter inputs and a flood on nutrient retention in a Mediterranean mountain stream during fall

Argerich, Alba, Eugènia Martí, Francesc Sabater, Miquel Ribot, Daniel von Schiller, Joan L. Riera

Limnol. Oceanogr., 53(2), 2008, 631-641 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2008.53.2.0631

ABSTRACT: This study examined the effect of increasing in-channel leaf standing stocks on hydrologic transient storage and nutrient retention in a Mediterranean mountain stream. A flood at the end of the leaf fall period provided the opportunity to examine the effect of abrupt removal of much of the leaf material. Twenty-one chloride additions were performed from October to December 2004. In 13 of these, we also added ammonium and phosphate to estimate nutrient uptake lengths and uptake velocities to assess nutrient retention. The one-dimensional transport with inflow and storage (OTIS) model was used to estimate transient water storage parameters. Although discharge remained constant during leaf fall, water residence time increased because of in-channel litter accumulation, as did nutrient uptake velocity. Flooding reduced leaf benthic standing stocks by 65% and dramatically altered hydraulic and nutrient retention properties of the channel. After recession, the stream rapidly recovered in terms of nutrient retention, especially for phosphate. Abrupt changes in discharge under flood conditions largely determined the variability in stream nutrient retention. However, leaf litter inputs played an important role in nutrient dynamics during constant flow. Because both the flood regime and the timing of leaf fall are being regionally altered by climate change, our results have implications for stream nutrient dynamics under climate change scenarios.

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