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John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis

Powell Center Working Group Project Information
Continental-scale overview of stream primary productivity, its links to water quality, and consequences for aquatic carbon biogeochemistry

Principal Investigator(s):
Edward Stets (USGS Branch of Regional Research, Central Region)
Emily Stanley (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Jordan S Read (Center for Integrated Data Analytics (CIDA))
Robert Hall (University of Wyoming)

Charles B Yackulic (Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Field Station, SBSC)
David L Lorenz (Minnesota Water Science Center)
Judson W Harvey (Branch of Regional Research, Eastern Region)
Natalie Griffiths (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
Alison Appling (University of Wisconsin)
Emily Bernhardt (Duke University)
Jim Heffernan (Duke University)
Maite Arroita (University of the Basque Country)

Award Date: 2015 

Streams and rivers have a limited spatial extent, but are increasingly recognized as key components of regional biogeochemical cycles. The collective metabolic processing of organisms, known as ecosystem metabolism, is centrally important to nutrient cycling and carbon fluxes in these environments, but is poorly integrated into emerging biogeochemical concepts. This line of inquiry lags behind other aspects of regional biogeochemistry because of the lack of long-term, regionally-diverse studies of stream metabolism. With a few exceptions, metabolism studies have focused on small headwater catchments using short-term (days to weeks) observation. As a consequence, basic patterns and controls of this fundamental process, such as seasonality, response to anthropogenic stressors, and interactions with carbon and nutrient cycling are not well understood.

The U.S. Geological Survey maintains a large network of high-frequency oxygen, temperature, and discharge sensors that generate the raw information needed to estimate stream metabolism. In many cases, these sensors have been in operation for years, making this the largest existing source of potential data by several orders of magnitude. However, the observational data have not been assembled and analyzed for questions relating to stream metabolism.

We propose to collate and analyze existing U.S. Geological Survey sensor data to create an open, national database of stream oxygen data from which we will calculate stream metabolism. We are uniquely positioned to open the black box of stream metabolism to address pressing biogeochemical questions at a scale that has not been considered previously: 1) What is annual stream metabolism in the conterminous U.S.?; 2) What is the role of streams and rivers in regional-scale carbon cycling?; 3) Can we detect trends in stream metabolism in response to anthropogenic changes? We have assembled a diverse, international team with the required expertise to assemble, analyze, and interpret this dataset.

Bernhardt, E. S., Heffernan, J. B., Grimm, N. B., Stanley, E. H., Harvey, J. W., Arroita, M., Appling, A. P., Cohen, M. J., McDowell, W. H., Hall, R. O., Read, J. S., Roberts, B. J., Stets, E. G. and Yackulic, C. B. (2017), The metabolic regimes of flowing waters. Limnol. Oceanogr.. doi:10.1002/lno.10726

USGS Mission Areas:
Water Science
Ecosystems Science

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