Stream nitrogen uptake associated with suspended sediments: a microcosm study

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Bacmeister, E., E. Peck, S. Bernasconi, S. Inamdar, J. Kan, and M. Peipoch. 2022. Frontiers in Environmental Science 20. (Open access)

Despite significant advances in our understanding of nitrogen (N) removal pathways along river networks, the role of water column processes remains largely understudied. This knowledge gap not only limits our capacity to determine N transport and retention in mid-to-large rivers but also hampers our understanding of N removal processes in smaller streams during stormflow conditions, in which significant increases in suspended sediment concentrations (SSC) typically occur. High SSC in the water column can provide abundant substrate for microbial growth and water column N uptake. However, storms of different size mobilize different quantities of sediment of varying properties and sizes, which can ultimately modulate water column N uptake rates in the stream during stormflows. To assess water column N uptake associated with suspended sediment particles of different sources and sizes, we quantified assimilatory and dissimilatory N uptake rates in a set of microcosms representing a gradient of sediment properties (organic matter, N content, and microbial activity) and surface area (fine vs. coarse size) availability.