Exchange between interstitial and surface water: Implications for stream metabolism and nutrient cycling

Nancy Grimm, Stuart G. Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

295 Scopus citations


Metabolism of a Sonoran Desert stream was investigated by both enclosure and whole system oxygen techniques. We used recirculating chambers to estimate surface sediment metabolism and measured deep sediment respiration in isolated sediment cores. Metabolism of the stream ecosystem was determined for a 30-m reach as dark and light oxygen change with and without black plastic sheeting that darkened the stream and prevented diffusion. Average ecosystem respiration for two dates in August (440 mg O2 m-2 h-1) exceeded respiration of either the surface sediment community (155 Mg O2 m-2 h-1) or the hyporheic community (170 mg O2 m-2 h-1) alone. Deep sediments show substantial oxygen and nitrate uptake when isolated. In the stream, this low nitrate interstitial water is exchanged with surface water. Metabolism of the isolated surface community suggests a highly productive and autotrophic system, yet gross production is balanced or exceeded by community respiration when ecosystem boundaries include the hyporheic zone. Thus, despite high rates of gross primary production (600-1200 mg O2 m-2 h-1), desert streams may be heterotrophic (PG < R) during summer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-228
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1984


  • autotrophic
  • hyporheic
  • interstitial water
  • production
  • stream metabolism
  • streams

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Exchange between interstitial and surface water: Implications for stream metabolism and nutrient cycling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this