The Role of Hyporheic Zones in Cycling of Carbon and Nitrogen
Friday, 18 December 2015: 14:10
2006 (Moscone West)
Hyporheic zones impact the biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nitrogen, both organic and inorganic. To investigate and develop a predictive understanding of the coupled carbon and nitrogen cycling in the subsurface, we integrated a genome inspired complex reaction network with a high‐resolution, three-dimensional, reactive flow and transport code – PFLOTRAN. Three-dimensional reactive flow and transport simulations were performed, making use of the high performance computing platform provided by PFLOTRAN, to describe the biogeochemical zonation developed because of the organic carbon rich sediments and a gradient of dissolved oxygen and pH within the hyporheic zone. We conducted this study in the lower East River, a high elevation catchment in southwestern Colorado. The lower East River site displays a rolling-to-mountainous topography with multiple river meanders that extend over a distance of 11 km. We carried out simulations within two stream meanders to examine (1) the impact of hyporheic exchanges on the biogeochemical zonation of variables and (2) how carbon and nitrogen fluxes at the meander scale influence coupled carbon and nitrogen cycling at the river scale. Three-dimensional model domain – 330 m (X) by 400 m (Y) by 48 m (Z) – was uniformly discretized with 10 m horizontal (X and Y) and 0.25 m vertical (Z) resolutions using structured grids in PFLOTRAN. Simulation results show that the intra-meander hyporheic flow paths and biogeochemical reactions result in the lateral redox zonation, which considerably impact the carbon and nitrogen fluxes into the stream system. The meander-driven hyporheic flow paths enhance the denitrification because of relatively longer residence times in the organic carbon-rich sediments.