A multi-year analysis of factors affecting ecosystem metabolism in forested and meadow reaches of a Piedmont stream

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Bott, T.L., and J.D. Newbold. 2023. Hydrobiologia 850: 4243–4269.

Permalink/DOI (Open access)


Studies of stream ecosystem metabolism over decades are rare and focused on responses to a single factor, e.g., nutrient reduction or storms. Numerous studies document that light, temperature, allochthonous inputs, nutrients, and flow affect metabolism. We use measurements spanning ~ 40 years to examine the interplay of all these influences on metabolism in forested and meadow reaches of a rural stream in southeastern Pennsylvania, USA. Measurements made in 1971–1975 used benthic substrata transferred to chambers (Period 1, P1), and ones in 1997–2010 used open system methodology (P2). Metabolism was greater in the Meadow reach both periods. Gross primary productivity (GPP) was driven primarily by light and chlorophyll, and respiration (R) by temperature and inclusion of hyporheic metabolism. Annually, processes were nearly balanced (Forested reach) or dominated by autotrophy (Meadow reach) in P1. Heterotrophy predominated in both reaches in P2, fueled by litter inputs (Forested reach) and fine particulate organic matter from the agricultural watershed (Meadow reach). Storms reduced GPP, R, and chlorophyll in proportion to storm size, but had less influence than other environmental factors. Riparian-zone reforestation of the P1 Meadow reach resulted in incident light and GPP similar to that in the permanent Forested reach within ~ 20 years.