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  1. Freshwater salinization syndrome (FSS) refers to the suite of interactive effects of salt ions on degradation of physical, biological,and social systems. Best management practices (BMPs), which are methods to effectively reduce runoff and nonpoint source pollution (stormwater, nutrients, sediments), do not typically consider management of salt pollution. We investigate impacts of FSS on mobilization of salts, nutrients, and metals in urban streams and storm water BMPs by analyzing original data on concentrations and fluxes of salts, nutrients, and metals from 7 urban watersheds in the Mid-Atlantic USA and synthesizing literature data. We also explore future critical research needs through a survey of practitioners and scientists. Our original data show 1) sharp pulses in concentrations of salt ions and metals in urban streams directly following both road salt events and stream restoration construction (e.g.,similar to the way concentrations increase during other soil disturbance activities); 2) sharp declines in pH (acidification) in response to road salt applications because of mobilization of H+ from soil exchange sites by Na+; 3) sharp increases inorganic matter from microbial and algal sources (based on fluorescence spectroscopy) in response to road salt applications, likely because of lysing cells and changes insolubility; 4) substantial retention (~30–40%) of Na+more »in stormwater BMP sediments and floodplains in response to salinization; 5) increased ion exchange and mobilization of diverse salt ions (Na+, Ca2+, K+, Mg2+), nutrients(N, P), and trace metals(Cu, Sr) from stormwater BMPs and restored streams in response to FSS; 6) downstream increasing loads ofCl–, SO42–, Br–, F–,andI–along flowpaths through urbanstreams and P release from urban stormwater BMPs in response to salinization; and 7)a substantial annual reduction (>50%) in Na+concentrations in an urban stream when road salt applications were dramatically reduced, which suggests potential for ecosystem recovery. We compare our original results with published metrics of contaminant retention and release across a broad range of stormwater BMPs from North America and Europe.Overall, urban streams and stormwater BMPs consistently retain Na+ and Cl–but mobilize multiple contaminants based on salt types and salinity levels. Finally, we present our top 10 research questions regarding FSS impacts on urban streams and stormwater BMPs. Reducing diverse chemical cocktails of contaminants mobilized by freshwater salinization is a priority for effectively and holistically restoring urban waters.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 27, 2023
  2. 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 downwardmore »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.

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  3. 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