skip to main content

Title: Long-term assessment of floodplain reconnection as a stream restoration approach for managing nitrogen in ground and surface waters
Abstract

Stream restoration is a popular approach for managing nitrogen (N) in degraded, flashy urban streams. Here, we investigated the long-term effects of stream restoration involving floodplain reconnection on riparian and in-stream N transport and transformation in an urban stream in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We examined relationships between hydrology, chemistry, and biology using a Before/After-Control/Impact (BACI) study design to determine how hydrologic flashiness, nitrate (NO3) concentrations (mg/L), and N flux, both NO3and total N (kg/yr), changed after the restoration and floodplain hydrologic reconnection to its stream channel. We examined two independent surface water and groundwater data sets (EPA and USGS) collected from 2002–2012 at our study sites in the Minebank Run watershed. Restoration was completed during 2004 and 2005. Afterward, the monthly hydrologic flashiness index, based on mean monthly discharge, decreased over time from 2002 and 2008. However, from 2008–2012 hydrologic flashiness returned to pre-restoration levels. Based on the EPA data set, NO3concentration in groundwater and surface water was significantly less after restoration while the control site showed no change. DOC and NO3were negatively related before and after restoration suggesting C limitation of N transformations. Long-term trends in surface water NO3concentrations based on USGS surface water data showed downward more » trends after restoration at both the restored and control sites, whereas specific conductance showed no trend. Comparisons of NO3concentrations with Clconcentrations and specific conductance in both ground and surface waters suggested that NO3reduction after restoration was not due to dilution or load reductions from the watershed. Modeled NO3flux decreased post restoration over time but the rate of decrease was reduced likely due to failure of restoration features that facilitated N transformations. Groundwater NO3concentrations varied among stream features suggesting that some engineered features may be functionally better at creating optimal conditions for N retention. However, some engineered features eroded and failed post restoration thereby reducing efficacy of the stream restoration to reduce flashiness and NO3flux. N management via stream restoration will be most effective where flashiness can be reduced and DOC made available for denitrifiers. Stream restoration may be an important component of holistic watershed management including stormwater management and nutrient source control if stream restoration and floodplain reconnection can be done in a manner to resist the erosive effects of large storm events that can degrade streams to pre-restoration conditions. Long-term evolution of water quality functions in response to degradation of restored stream channels and floodplains from urban stressors and storms over time warrants further study, however.

« less
Authors:
; ; ;
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10366991
Journal Name:
Urban Ecosystems
Volume:
25
Issue:
3
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 879-907
ISSN:
1083-8155
Publisher:
Springer Science + Business Media
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Streams and rivers are significant sources of nitrous oxide (N2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and methane (CH4) globally, and watershed management can alter greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from streams. We hypothesized that urban infrastructure significantly alters downstream water quality and contributes to variability in GHG saturation and emissions. We measured gas saturation and estimated emission rates in headwaters of two urban stream networks (Red Run and Dead Run) of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study Long-Term Ecological Research project. We identified four combinations of stormwater and sanitary infrastructure present in these watersheds, including: (1) stream burial, (2) inline stormwater wetlands, (3) riparian/floodplain preservation, and (4) septic systems. We selected two first-order catchments in each of these categories and measured GHG concentrations, emissions, and dissolved inorganic and organic carbon (DIC and DOC) and nutrient concentrations biweekly for 1 year. From a water quality perspective, the DOC : NO3 ratio of streamwater was significantly different across infrastructure categories. Multiple linear regressions including DOC : NO3 and other variables (dissolved oxygen, DO; total dissolved nitrogen, TDN; and temperature) explained much of the statistical variation in nitrous oxide (N2O, r2 =  0.78), carbon dioxide (CO2, r2 =  0.78), and methane (CH4, r2 =  0.50) saturation in stream water. We measured N2O saturation ratios, which were among the highest reported in the literaturemore »for streams, ranging from 1.1 to 47 across all sites and dates. N2O saturation ratios were highest in streams draining watersheds with septic systems and strongly correlated with TDN. The CO2 saturation ratio was highly correlated with the N2O saturation ratio across all sites and dates, and the CO2 saturation ratio ranged from 1.1 to 73. CH4 was always supersaturated, with saturation ratios ranging from 3.0 to 2157. Longitudinal surveys extending form headwaters to third-order outlets of Red Run and Dead Run took place in spring and fall. Linear regressions of these data yielded significant negative relationships between each gas with increasing watershed size as well as consistent relationships between solutes (TDN or DOC, and DOC : TDN ratio) and gas saturation. Despite a decline in gas saturation between the headwaters and stream outlet, streams remained saturated with GHGs throughout the drainage network, suggesting that urban streams are continuous sources of CO2, CH4, and N2O. Our results suggest that infrastructure decisions can have significant effects on downstream water quality and greenhouse gases, and watershed management strategies may need to consider coupled impacts on urban water and air quality.« less
  2. Abstract
    Excessive phosphorus (P) applications to croplands can contribute to eutrophication of surface waters through surface runoff and subsurface (leaching) losses. We analyzed leaching losses of total dissolved P (TDP) from no-till corn, hybrid poplar (Populus nigra X P. maximowiczii), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), miscanthus (Miscanthus giganteus), native grasses, and restored prairie, all planted in 2008 on former cropland in Michigan, USA. All crops except corn (13 kg P ha−1 year−1) were grown without P fertilization. Biomass was harvested at the end of each growing season except for poplar. Soil water at 1.2 m depth was sampled weekly to biweekly for TDP determination during March–November 2009–2016 using tension lysimeters. Soil test P (0–25 cm depth) was measured every autumn. Soil water TDP concentrations were usually below levels where eutrophication of surface waters is frequently observed (> 0.02 mg L−1) but often higher than in deep groundwater or nearby streams and lakes. Rates of P leaching, estimated from measured concentrations and modeled drainage, did not differ statistically among cropping systems across years; 7-year cropping system means ranged from 0.035 to 0.072 kg P ha−1 year−1 with large interannual variation. Leached P was positively related to STP, which decreased over the 7 years in all systems. These results indicate that both P-fertilized and unfertilized cropping systems mayMore>>
  3. Large-scale wetland restoration often focuses on repairing the hydrologic connections degraded by anthropogenic modifications. Of these hydrologic connections, groundwater discharge is an important target, as these surface water ecosystem control points are important for thermal stability, among other ecosystem services. However, evaluating the effectiveness of the restoration activities on establishing groundwater discharge connection is often difficult over large areas and inaccessible terrain. Unoccupied aircraft systems (UAS) are now routinely used for collecting aerial imagery and creating digital surface models (DSM). Lightweight thermal infrared (TIR) sensors provide another payload option for generation of sub-meter-resolution aerial TIR orthophotos. This technology allows for the rapid and safe survey of groundwater discharge areas. Aerial TIR water-surface data were collected in March 2019 at Tidmarsh Farms, a former commercial cranberry peatland located in coastal Massachusetts, USA (41°54′17″ N 70°34′17″ W), where stream and wetland restoration actions were completed in 2016. Here, we present a 0.4 km2 georeferenced, temperature-calibrated TIR orthophoto of the area. The image represents a mosaic of nearly 900 TIR images captured by UAS in a single morning with a total flight time of 36 min and is supported by a DSM derived from UAS-visible imagery. The survey was conducted in winter tomore »maximize temperature contrast between relatively warm groundwater and colder ambient surface environment; lower-density groundwater rises above cool surface waters and thus can be imaged by a UAS. The resulting TIR orthomosaic shows fine detail of seepage distribution and downstream influence along the several restored channel forms, which was an objective of the ecological restoration design. The restored stream channel has increased connectivity to peatland groundwater discharge, reducing the ecosystem thermal stressors. Such aerial techniques can be used to guide ecological restoration design and assess post-restoration outcomes, especially in settings where ecosystem structure and function is governed by groundwater and surface water interaction.« less
  4. Abstract

    The effectiveness of many stream restorations in improving water quality is unmeasured. In the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, activity by European settlers resulted in upland erosion and deposition of sediments 1–3 m in thickness in stream valleys. Subsequently, streams incised those legacy sediments creating steep, exposed banks, infrequent floodplain inundation, and water tables disconnected from floodplains. Legacy sediment removal (LSR) and floodplain reconnection (FR) proposes water quality improvement by restoration to a hydrological state closer to pre-European. We investigated water quality at nine sites, six restored with LSR/FR and three comparison sites. Nitrogen baseflow concentrations and fluxes were elevated in urban and agricultural watersheds with little apparent effect due to restoration. Denitrification appeared to be constrained by carbon availability. Ion concentrations were elevated in all watersheds compared to a forested reference and represent a substantial ecological stressor for the post-restoration aquatic community. Storm event data from one site suggest small reductions in nutrient and sediment loads across the restored reach. High-frequency time series indicate that restoration effects are not observable at larger scales. The effects of restoration, particularly for denitrification, may not be observable for years and can be obscured by weather and climate-driven variability.

  5. Flooding during extreme weather events damages critical infrastructure, property, and threatens lives. Hurricane María devastated Puerto Rico (PR) on 20 September 2017. Sixty-four deaths were directly attributable to the flooding. This paper describes the development of a hydrologic model using the Gridded Surface Subsurface Hydrologic Analysis (GSSHA), capable of simulating flood depth and extent for the Añasco coastal flood plain in Western PR. The purpose of the study was to develop a numerical model to simulate flooding from extreme weather events and to evaluate the impacts on critical infrastructure and communities; Hurricane María is used as a case study. GSSHA was calibrated for Irma, a Category 3 hurricane, which struck the northeastern corner of the island on 7 September 2017, two weeks before Hurricane María. The upper Añasco watershed was calibrated using United States Geological Survey (USGS) stream discharge data. The model was validated using a storm of similar magnitude on 11–13 December 2007. Owing to the damage sustained by PR’s WSR-88D weather radar during Hurricane María, rainfall was estimated in this study using the Weather Research Forecast (WRF) model. Flooding in the coastal floodplain during Hurricane María was simulated using three methods: (1) Use of observed discharge hydrograph frommore »the upper watershed as an inflow boundary condition for the coastal floodplain area, along with the WRF rainfall in the coastal flood plain; (2) Use of WRF rainfall to simulate runoff in the upper watershed and coastal flood plain; and (3) Similar to approach (2), except the use of bias-corrected WRF rainfall. Flooding results were compared with forty-two values of flood depth obtained during face-to-face interviews with residents of the affected communities. Impacts on critical infrastructure (water, electric, and public schools) were evaluated, assuming any structure exposed to 20 cm or more of flooding would sustain damage. Calibration equations were also used to improve flood depth estimates. Our model included the influence of storm surge, which we found to have a minimal effect on flood depths within the study area. Water infrastructure was more severely impacted by flooding than electrical infrastructure. From these findings, we conclude that the model developed in this study can be used with sufficient accuracy to identify infrastructure affected by future flooding events.« less