LRES Ph.D. Dissertation Defense: Sam Carlson
- Thursday, April 9, 2020 at 10:00am
Understanding Hydrogeomorphic Influences on Stream Network Denitrification and Temperature Dynamics
The removal of nitrate from stream networks through the process of denitrification is an important component of local and regional nutrient cycles, but the controls on stream network denitrification rates remain poorly understood. Previous work has demonstrated general effects of stream channel size and nitrate loading rates on network-scale denitrification rates, but has been unable to elucidate connections between the complex environmental template of streams, and resulting denitrification rates. Understanding links between land use and management practices, physical and chemical characteristics of streams, and stream denitrification rates is critical to interpreting observed patterns of nitrate in freshwater systems and forming holistic management strategies for reducing the negative effects of elevated nitrate concentrations. To address these critical uncertainties, we develop a stream network simulation model that incorporates the effects of whole-stream aerobic respiration on biotic denitrification demand. This model is applied to a small, subalpine stream network under scenarios designed to explore 1) the implications of temperature-controlled, network scale patterns of respiration rates on the distribution and overall magnitude of stream network denitrification, and 2) the effect of logging-induced channel simplification on whole network denitrification rates. The first analysis is complimented by an evaluation of controls on stream temperature across this network, revealing the spatially and temporally variable influence of in-network lakes on stream temperatures. Results from the first analysis suggest that reach- and network-scale denitrification rates are strongly influenced by respiration rate and temperature when nitrate supplies are high relative to removal rates, indicating an increased contribution of lower, warmer streams to whole-network denitrification. The second analysis reveals that historical logging has caused a ~30% loss of stream network denitrification capacity, which is manifested as a corresponding reduction in whole-network denitrification rates when nitrate supplies are not limiting. In sum, this work emphasizes the diverse set of factors that influence reach and watershed scale biogeochemical characteristics and processes, and suggests that land management actions which influence stream morphology may also alter stream denitrification rates.
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- Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences