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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 19, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 28, 2023
  3. null (Ed.)
  4. Abstract

    Milldams and their legacies have significantly influenced fluvial processes and geomorphology. However, less is known about their effects on riparian zone hydrology, biogeochemistry, and water quality. Here, we discuss the potential effects of existing and breached milldams on riparian nitrogen (N) processing through multiple competing hypotheses and observations from complementary studies. Competing hypotheses characterize riparian zone processes that remove (sink) or release (source) N. Elevated groundwater levels and reducing soil conditions upstream of milldams suggest that riparian zones above dams could be hotspots for N removal via denitrification and plant N uptake. On the other hand, dam removals and subsequent drops in stream and riparian groundwater levels result in drained, oxic soils which could increase soil nitrification and decrease riparian plant uptake due to groundwater bypassing the root zone. Whether dam removals would result in a net increase or decrease of N in riparian groundwaters is unknown and needs to be investigated. While nitrification, denitrification, and plant N uptake have typically received the most attention in riparian studies, other N cycle processes such as dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) need to be considered. We also propose a novel concept of riparian discontinuum, which highlights the hydrologic and biogeochemicalmore »discontinuities introduced in riparian zones by anthropogenic structures such as milldams. Understanding and quantifying how milldams and similar structures influence the net source or sink behavior of riparian zones is urgently needed for guiding watershed management practices and for informed decision making with regard to dam removals.

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  5. Large runoff, sediment, and nutrient exports from watersheds could occur due to individual extreme climate events or a combination of multiple hydrologic and meteorological conditions. Using high-frequency hydrologic, sediment, and turbidity data we show that freeze–thaw episodes followed by intense winter (February) rainstorms can export very high concentrations and loads of suspended sediment and particulate organic carbon (POC) and nitrogen (PN) from mid-Atlantic watersheds in the US. Peak suspended sediment (> 5000 mg L−1), POC (> 250 mg L−1) and PN (> 15 mg L−1) concentrations at our 12 and 79 ha forested watersheds for the February rainfall-runoff events were highest on record and the fluxes were comparable to those measured for tropical storms. Similar responses were observed for turbidity values (> 400 FNU) at larger USGS-monitored watersheds. Much of the sediments and particulate nutrients likely originated from erosion of stream bank sediments and/or channel storage. Currently, there is considerable uncertainty about the contribution of these sources to nonpoint source pollution, particularly, in watersheds with large legacy sediment deposits. Future climate projections indicate increased intensification of storm events and increased variability of winter temperatures. Freeze–thaw cycles coupled with winter rain events could increase erosion and transport of streambank sediments withmore »detrimental consequences for water quality and health of downstream aquatic ecosystems.« less