Get access

Nutrient processes at the stream-lake interface for a channelized versus unmodified stream mouth

Authors


  • This article was corrected on 28 JAN 2017. See the end of the full text for details.

Abstract

Inorganic forms of nitrogen and phosphorous impact freshwater lakes by stimulating primary production and affecting water quality and ecosystem health. Communities around the world are motivated to sustain and restore freshwater resources and are interested in processes controlling nutrient inputs. We studied the environment where streams flow into lakes, referred to as the stream-lake interface (SLI), for a channelized and unmodified stream outlet. Channelization is done to protect infrastructure or recreational beach areas. We collected hydraulic and nutrient data for surface water and shallow groundwater in two SLIs to develop conceptual models that describe characteristics that are representative of these hydrologic features. Water, heat, and solute transport models were used to evaluate hydrologic conceptualizations and estimate mean residence times of water in the sediment. A nutrient mass balance model is developed to estimate net rates of adsorption and desorption, mineralization, and nitrification along subsurface flow paths. Results indicate that SLIs are dynamic sources of nutrients to lakes and that the common practice of channelizing the stream at the SLI decreases nutrient concentrations in pore water discharging along the lakeshore. This is in contrast to the unmodified SLI that forms a barrier beach that disconnects the stream from the lake and results in higher nutrient concentrations in pore water discharging to the lake. These results are significant because nutrient delivery through pore water seepage at the lakebed from the natural SLI contributes to nearshore algal communities and produces elevated concentrations of inorganic nutrients in the benthic zone where attached algae grow.

Ancillary