Coupled biogeochemical and hydrological responses of streams and rivers to drought


Clifford N. Dahm, Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, U.S.A. E-mail:


  • 1Severe or extreme droughts occurred about 10% of the time over a 105-year record from central New Mexico, U.S.A., based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index.
  • 2Drought lowers water tables, creating extensive areas of groundwater recharge and fragmenting reaches of streams and rivers. Deeper groundwater inputs predominate as sources of surface flows during drought. Nutrient inputs to streams and rivers reflect the biogeochemistry of regional ground waters with longer subsurface residence times.
  • 3Inputs of bioavailable dissolved organic carbon to surface waters decrease during drought, with labile carbon limitation of microbial metabolism a byproduct of drought conditions.
  • 4Decreased inputs of organic forms of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus and a decrease in the organic : inorganic ratio of nutrient inputs favours autotrophs over heterotrophs during drought.
  • 5The fate of autotrophic production during drought will be strongly influenced by the structure of the aquatic food web within impacted sites.