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Effects of riparian vegetation removal on nutrient retention in a Mediterranean stream

Francesc Sabater, Andrea Butturini, Eugènia MartÍ, Isabel Muñoz, Anna Romaní, Joanne Wray and Sergi Sabater
Journal of the North American Benthological Society
Vol. 19, No. 4 (December 2000), pp. 609-620
DOI: 10.2307/1468120
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1468120
Page Count: 12
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Effects of riparian vegetation removal on nutrient retention in a Mediterranean stream
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Abstract

AbstractWe examined the effects of riparian vegetation removal on algal dynamics and stream nutrient retention efficiency by comparing NH4-N and PO4-P uptake lengths from a logged and an unlogged reach in Riera Major, a forested Mediterranean stream in northeastern Spain. From June to September 1995, we executed 6 short-term additions of N (as NH4Cl) and P (as Na2HPO4) in a 200-m section to measure nutrient uptake lengths. The study site included 2 clearly differentiated reaches in terms of canopy cover by riparian trees: the first 100 m were completely logged (i.e., the logged reach) and the remaining 100 m were left intact (i.e., the shaded reach). Trees were removed from the banks of the logged reach in the winter previous to our sampling. In the shaded reach, riparian vegetation was dominated by alders (Alnus glutinosa). The study was conducted during summer and fall months when differences in light availability between the 2 reaches were greatest because of forest canopy conditions. Algal biomass and % of stream surface covered by algae were higher in the logged than in the shaded reach, indicating that logging had a stimulatory effect on algae in the stream. Overall, nutrient retention efficiency was higher (i.e., shorter uptake lengths) in the logged than in the shaded reach, especially for PO4-P. Despite a greater increase in PO4-P retention efficiency relative to that of NH4-N following logging, retention efficiency for NH4-N was higher than for PO4-P in both study reaches. The PO4-P mass-transfer coefficient was correlated with primary production in both study reaches, indicating that algal activity plays an important role in controlling PO4-P dynamics in this stream. In contrast, the NH4-N mass-transfer coefficient showed a positive relationship only with % of algal coverage in the logged reach, and was not correlated with any algal-related parameter in the shaded reach. The lack of correlation with algal production suggests that mechanisms other than algal activity (i.e., microbial heterotrophic processes or abiotic mechanisms) may also influence NH4-N retention in this stream. Overall, this study shows that logging disturbances in small shaded streams may alter in-stream ecological features that lead to changes in stream nutrient retention efficiency. Moreover, it emphasizes that alteration of the tight linkage between the stream channel and the adjacent riparian zone may directly and indirectly impact biogeochemical processes with implications for stream ecosystem functioning.

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