River Corridor hot spots for biogeochemical processing: a continental scale synthesis

Science Center Objects

Rivers are the veins of the landscape, providing environmental benefits that are disproportionately high relative to their aerial extent; shedding flood waters, hosting aquatic ecosystems, transporting solutes and energy-rich materials, and storing and transforming pollutants into less harmful forms. From uplands to the coasts, rivers facilitate key biogeochemical reactions that cumulatively in...

Rivers are the veins of the landscape, providing environmental benefits that are disproportionately high relative to their aerial extent; shedding flood waters, hosting aquatic ecosystems, transporting solutes and energy-rich materials, and storing and transforming pollutants into less harmful forms. From uplands to the coasts, rivers facilitate key biogeochemical reactions that cumulatively influence water quality. Many of the reactions are optimized outside the main channel, in hyporheic zones, riparian zones, and floodplain areas, where riverine water is in close contact with geochemically and microbially-active sediments. However, little is known about the distribution, intermittency, and overall effectiveness of biogeochemical processing in river corridors. A better characterization of hydrological and biogeochemical processing in river networks will be useful for many purposes, from prioritizing watershed management practices in different physiographic regions to clarifying regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act.

Our national-scale synthesis project aims to improve characterization of river hydrogeomorpohology and its cumulative influence on water quality. This addresses a critical need to quantify relationships among hydrologic transport, biogeochemical processing, ecosystem function, and societal value. We will develop new data sets and a practical modeling approach incorporating transport reactions occurring in river networks. We will develop new modeling approaches to identify physical and biogeochemical controls of hyporheic zones, riparian areas, and floodplains, and to quantify their cumulative effects on water and solutes. Further, we will use the new data and models to forecast outcomes for changing water quality at the scale of the nation.

The outcomes of this project will be relevant to many water quality issues affected by fate and transport of pollutants in rivers - such as nutrients released from agricultural sites, toxic metals released from mining sites, organic contaminants released from military sites, pharmaceuticals or personal care products released from wastewater sites, and chemical additives from unconventional oil and gas well sites.

Principal Investigator(s):

Judson W. Harvey (U.S. Geological Survey)

Jesus D Gomez-Velez (New Mexico Tech)

Elizabeth W Boyer (Penn State)

Durelle T Scott (Virginia Tech)

Participant(s):

Richard B Alexander (U.S. Geological Survey)

Richard B Moore (New Hampshire/Vermont Water Science Center)

Christopher P Konrad (Washington Water Science Center)

Jay Choi (U.S. Geological Survey)

Gregory E Schwarz (U.S. Geological Survey)

Heather Golden (US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA))

James E Pizzuto (University of Delaware)

Albert Kettner (University of Colorado Boulder)

Manoj KC (New Mexico Tech)

Kenny Eng (U.S. Geological Survey)

Noah M Schmadel (U.S. Geological Survey)

Chris Soulsby (University of Aberdeen)

Rejanne Le Bivic (University of Delaware)

Publication(s):

Grant, S. B., Gomez‐Velez, J. D., & Ghisalberti, M. (2018). Modeling the Effects of Turbulence on Hyporheic Exchange and Local‐to‐Global Nutrient Processing in Streams. Water Resources Research, 54. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018WR023078



Gomez-Velez, J.D., J.W. Harvey, M.B. Cardenas, and B. Kiel (2015), Denitrification in the Mississippi River network controlled by flow through river bedforms, Nature Geoscience, doi: 10.1038/NGEO2567



Gomez-Velez, J. D., Wilson, J. L., Cardenas, M. B. and Harvey, J. W. (2017), Flow and Residence Times of Dynamic River Bank Storage and Sinuosity-Driven Hyporheic Exchange. Water Resour. Res.. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1002/2017WR021362



Harvey, J., and M. Gooseff (2015), River corridor science: Hydrologic exchange and ecological consequences from bedforms to basins, Water Resour. Res., 51, 6893-6922, doi:10.1002/ 2015WR017617.



Harvey, J., Gomez-Velez, J., Schmadel, N., Scott, D., Boyer, E., Alexander, R., Eng, K., Kettner, A., Konrad, C., Moore, R., Pizzuto, J., Schwarz, G., Soulsby, C., and Choi, J., 2018. How hydrologic connectivity regulates water quality in river corridors, Journal of the American Water Resources Association, DOI: 10.1111/1752-1688.12691



Schmadel, N. M., Harvey, J. W., Alexander, R. B., Schwarz, G. E., Moore, R. B., Eng, K., Gomez-Velez, J. D., Boyer, E. W., and Scott, D. (2018). Thresholds of lake and reservoir connectivity in river networks control nitrogen removal. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-05156-x