Mixing controls on nitrogen and oxygen concentrations and the relationship to mean residence time in a hyporheic zone of a riffle-pool sequence.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Ramon C Naranjo1, Richard G Niswonger1 and Clinton J Davis2, (1)USGS Nevada Water Science Center, Carson City, NV, United States, (2)University of Nevada Reno, Natural Resources and Environmental Science, Reno, NV, United States
Flow paths and residence times in the hyporheic zone are known to control biogeochemical processes such as nitrification and denitrification. The exchange across the sediment-water interface involves mixing of surface water and groundwater through complex hyporheic flow paths that contribute highly variable biogeochemical active zones. The objectives of this study were to determine the fate of nitrate (NO3) and dissolved oxygen (DO) during temporally varying flow conditions and compare concentrations to residence times simulated along a longitudinal cross-section accounting for mixing behavior of vertical and horizontal flow paths. In this study, the spatial and temporal distribution of nutrients was monitored in the hyporheic zone beneath a riffle-pool sequence on the Truckee River, NV using in-stream piezometers and riparian monitoring wells. Time-varying river discharge, spatially-varying hyporheic flow, and the distribution and mixing of flow paths appear to control the nitrification and denitrification process, and result in biogeochemical hot spots and hot moments. Results indicate that dissolved organic nitrogen concentrations in the hyporheic zone are generally greater than surface water concentrations, especially in down-welling zones. Concentrations of NO3 and DO were greater beneath the riffle areas as compared to pool areas, as a result of mineralization and nitrification of down-welling surface water. Replenishment of DO appears to support nitrification over long flow paths (101 of meters) and residence times (days). Denitrification along longer horizontal flow paths is limited by the influx of DO into the riverbed and the reductions in mean residence times. It is important to consider the occurrence of rapid inflows of surface water into the hyporheic zones resulting from variability in stage and riverbed topography, that replenishes DO and controls reaction rates and solute residence times. Flow-tube conceptual models for simulating residence times and reactions do not appear to be appropriate for systems where mixing among short and long flow paths in the hyporheic zone is prevalent.