Heterogeneity in a Suburban River Network: Understanding the Impact of Fluvial Wetlands on Dissolved Oxygen and Metabolism in Headwater Streams

Monday, 15 December 2014
Joshua Slocum Cain1, Wilfred M Wollheim1, Ken Sheehan1 and Anne Lightbody2, (1)Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space (EOS), University of New Hampshire (UNH), Durham, NH, United States, (2)University of New Hampshire, Earth Sciences, Durham, NH, United States
Low dissolved oxygen content in rivers threatens fish populations, aquatic organisms, and the health of entire ecosystems. River systems with high fluvial wetland abundance and organic matter, may result in high metabolism that in conjunction with low re-aeration rates, lead to low oxygen conditions. Increasing abundance of beaver ponds in many areas may exacerbate this phenomenon. This research aims to understand the impact of fluvial wetlands, including beaver ponds, on dissolved oxygen (D.O.) and metabolism throughout the headwaters of the Ipswich R. watershed, MA, USA. In several fluvial wetland dominated systems, we measured diel D.O. and metabolism in the upstream inflow, the surface water transient storage zones of fluvial wetland sidepools, and at the outflow to understand how the wetlands modify dissolved oxygen. D.O. was also measured longitudinally along entire surface water flow paths (x-y km long) to determine how low levels of D.O. propagate downstream. Nutrient samples were also collected to understand how their behavior was related to D.O. behavior. Results show that D.O. in fluvial wetlands has large swings with periods of very low D.O. at night. D.O. swings were also seen in downstream outflow, though lagged and somewhat attenuated. Flow conditions affect the level of inundation and the subsequent effects of fluvial wetlands on main channel D.O.. Understanding the D.O. behavior throughout river systems has important implications for the ability of river systems to remove anthropogenic nitrogen.