Measuring nutrient spiralling in streams

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Newbold, J.D., J.W. Elwood, and R.V. O’Neill. 1981. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 38(7):860–863.

doi: 10.1139/f81-114


Nutrient cycling in streams involves some downstream transport before the cycle is completed. Thus, the path traveled by a nutrient atom in passing through the cycle can be visualized as a spiral. As an index of the spiralling process, we introduce spiralling length, defined as the average distance associated with one complete cycle of a nutrient atom. This index provides a measure of the utilization of nutrients relative to the available supply from upstream. Using 32P as a tracer, we estimated a spiralling length of 193 m for phosphorus in a small woodland stream.