Dissolved inorganic nitrogen dynamics in the hyporheic zone of reference and human-altered southwestern U. S. streams

C. L. Crenshaw, Nancy Grimm, L. H. Zeglin, R. W. Sheibley, C. N. Dahm, A. D. Pershall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Canalization and incision are common morphological alterations associated with human land use that reduce hydrological/hydrodynamic linkages between surface and ground waters in stream ecosystems. To explore the impacts of these anthropogenic changes on nutrient spiraling in streams, we measured the linkage between hyporheic and surface zones of reference and human-altered streams using 15N-nitrate (15NO3-) and bromide (Br-) tracer injection experiments. Experiments were conducted in 7 streams (3 reference, 3 agricultural and 1 urban) in Arizona and New Mexico, USA, over a 3 yr period during the Lotic Intersite Nitrogen experiment (LINX II). Groundwater wells (6-9 in each stream) were inserted to 30 cm depth and multilevel samplers (MLS) were installed downstream from injection sites to measure inorganic nitrogen (N) and Br- concentrations in hyporheic water. There was measurable surface water-ground water (SW-GW) connectivity, as indicated by Br- concentrations in shallow alluvial ground water (0-30 cm depth) at all sites. SW-GW connectivity was higher in reference than in human-altered streams. Concentrations of No3-and NH 4+ in MLS cells (0-10, 10-20, and 20-30cm below streambed) were inversely correlated, and 15N-enrichment of both N species was measurable in groundwater wells. Hyporheic zones with lower surface-water infiltration had higher quantities of 15NH4 +than of 15NO3-. Whole stream uptake (ktot; calculated during the LINX II experiments) was correlated with δ15NH4+in wells; i.e., high 815NH4+in wells was associated with high stream uptake, and both whole stream NO3- uptake and δ15NH4 +were highest in the human-altered streams. The presence of enriched 15NH4+ in many of the wells within 24 h of injection suggested that dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) was occurring in the hyporheic zone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-405
Number of pages15
JournalFundamental and Applied Limnology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Canalization
  • Ground waters
  • Human land use
  • Incision
  • Stream ecosystem
  • Surface waters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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