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Influence of streambed sediment clogging on microbial processes in the hyporheic zone


Geraldine Nogaro, CEMAGREF, Unité de Recherche Biologie des Ecosystèmes Aquatiques, 3 bis Quai Chauveau, CP 220, 69336 Lyon Cedex 09, France. E-mail:
Present address: Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Wright State University, 3640 Colonel Glenn Highway, Dayton, OH 45435, U.S.A.


1. The hyporheic zone plays a key role in hydrological exchange and biogeochemical processes in streambed sediments. The clogging of sediments caused by the deposition of particles in the bed of streams and rivers can decrease sediment permeability and hence greatly affect hyporheic microbial processes.

2. The main objective of this study was to determine the influence of sediment clogging on hyporheic microbial processes in three French rivers (the Usses, Drôme and Isère). In each river, microbial abundance and activity were studied at three depths (10, 30 and 50 cm) in the sediment at one unclogged (high porosity) and one clogged site (low porosity).

3. The results showed that the sediment clogging had inconsistent effects on microbial processes in the three rivers. Increases (Usses) or decreases (Drôme and Isère) in both aerobic and anaerobic processes were detected at the clogged sites compared to unclogged sites. These results suggest that microbial changes because of the sediment clogging are mainly mediated by the residence time of water within the hyporheic sediments.

4. A single model predicting the effect of clogging on hyporheic microbial processes cannot be applied generally to all rivers because the degree of clogging creates heterogeneous effects on flow rates between surface and interstitial waters. As a consequence, the influence of heterogeneous clogging on surface water–hyporheic exchanges needs to be evaluated by water tracing and hydraulic modelling to determine the links between microbial processes and hydraulic heterogeneity induced by clogging in hyporheic sediments.