Solute transport and transformation in an intermittent, headwater mountain stream with diurnal discharge fluctuations

Adam S. Ward*, Marie J. Kurz, Noah M. Schmadel, Julia L.A. Knapp, Phillip J. Blaen, Ciaran J. Harman, Jennifer D. Drummond, David M. Hannah, Stefan Krause, Angang Li, Eugenia Marti, Alexander Milner, Melinda Miller, Kerry Neil, Stephen Plont, Aaron I. Packman, Nathan I. Wisnoski, Steven M. Wondzell, Jay P. Zarnetske

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Time-variable discharge is known to control both transport and transformation of solutes in the river corridor. Still, few studies consider the interactions of transport and transformation together. Here, we consider how diurnal discharge fluctuations in an intermittent, headwater stream control reach-scale solute transport and transformation as measured with conservative and reactive tracers during a period of no precipitation. One common conceptual model is that extended contact times with hyporheic zones during low discharge conditions allows for increased transformation of reactive solutes. Instead, we found tracer timescales within the reach were related to discharge, described by a single discharge-variable StorAge Selection function. We found that Resazurin to Resorufin (Raz-to-Rru) transformation is static in time, and apparent differences in reactive tracer were due to interactions with different ages of storage, not with time-variable reactivity. Overall we found reactivity was highest in youngest storage locations, with minimal Raz-to-Rru conversion in waters older than about 20 h of storage in our study reach. Therefore, not all storage in the study reach has the same potential biogeochemical function and increasing residence time of solute storage does not necessarily increase reaction potential of that solute, contrary to prevailing expectations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2208
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Diurnal discharge fluctuations
  • Headwaters
  • Hyporheic
  • Intermittent stream
  • Reactive tracers
  • Resazurin
  • River corridor
  • Solute transport
  • Unsteady-state discharge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology


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