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  1. Mean annual temperature and mean annual precipitation drive much of the variation in productivity across Earth's terrestrial ecosystems but do not explain variation in gross primary productivity (GPP) or ecosystem respiration (ER) in flowing waters. We document substantial variation in the magnitude and seasonality of GPP and ER across 222 US rivers. In contrast to their terrestrial counterparts, most river ecosystems respire far more carbon than they fix and have less pronounced and consistent seasonality in their metabolic rates. We find that variation in annual solar energy inputs and stability of flows are the primary drivers of GPP and ER across rivers. A classification schema based on these drivers advances river science and informs management. 
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  2. Abstract

    Hypoxia in coastal waters and lakes is widely recognized as a detrimental environmental issue, yet we lack a comparable understanding of hypoxia in rivers. We investigated controls on hypoxia using 118 million paired observations of dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration and water temperature in over 125,000 locations in rivers from 93 countries. We found hypoxia (DO < 2 mg L−1) in 12.6% of all river sites across 53 countries, but no consistent trend in prevalence since 1950. High‐frequency data reveal a 3‐h median duration of hypoxic events which are most likely to initiate at night. River attributes were better predictors of riverine hypoxia occurrence than watershed land cover, topography, and climate characteristics. Hypoxia was more likely to occur in warmer, smaller, and lower‐gradient rivers, particularly those draining urban or wetland land cover. Our findings suggest that riverine hypoxia and the resulting impacts on ecosystems may be more pervasive than previously assumed.

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  3. To assess the distribution, frequency, and global extent of riverine hypoxia, we compiled 118 million paired dissolved oxygen (DO) and water temperature measurements from 125,158 unique locations in rivers in 93 countries and territories across the globe. The dataset also includes site characteristics derived from StreamCat, the National Hydrography and HydroAtlas datasets and proximal land cover derived from MODIS-based IGBP land cover types compiled using Google Earth Engine (GEE). 
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  4. Abstract

    Small ponds—farm ponds, detention ponds, or impoundments below 0.01 km2—serve important human needs throughout most large river basins. Yet the role of small ponds in regional nutrient and sediment budgets is essentially unknown, currently making it impossible to evaluate their management potential to achieve water quality objectives. Here we used new hydrography data sets and found that small ponds, depending on their spatial position within both their local catchments and the larger river network, can dominate the retention of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment compared to rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Over 300,000 small ponds are collectively responsible for 34%, 69%, and 12% of the mean annual retention of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment in the Northeastern United States, respectively, with a dominant influence in headwater catchments (54%, 85%, and 50%, respectively). Small ponds play a critical role among the many aquatic features in long‐term nutrient and sediment loading to downstream waters.

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  5. Abstract

    For many glacial lakes with highly permeable sediments, water exchange rates control hydrologic residence times within the sediment‐water interface (SWI) and the removal of reactive compounds such as nitrate, a common pollutant in lakes and groundwater. Here we conducted a series of focused tracer injection experiments in the upper 20 cm of the naturally downwelling SWI in a flow‐through lake on Cape Cod, MA. We systematically varied residence time and reactant controls on nitrate processing, using isotopically labeled15N nitrate to monitor the effect of these changes on nitrate removal via denitrification. The addition of acetate, a labile carbon compound, triggered the lake SWI to switch from net production to net removal of nitrate. When acetate was combined with increased residence time created by controlled reductions in water flux, we observed a fivefold increase in nitrate removal, a 26‐fold increase in N2production, and a 42‐fold increase in N2O production. We demonstrate that water residence time is an important control on the fate of nitrate in these lake SWIs and illustrate that seasonal conditions that alter lake exchange rates and variability in lake carbon may predict dynamic nitrate removal across the SWI. Additionally, observed N2O production during the oxic pore water experiments paired with geophysical characterization of the sediment porosity revealed that the lake SWI has less mobile pores occupying upward of 50% of the total porosity volume, which function as reactive microzones for nitrate processing.

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