Nutrient Flux, Uptake, and Transformation in a Spring-fed Stream in the Missouri Ozarks, USA


We examined nutrient flux, uptake, and transformation along a spring-fed stream in the Ozark region of Missouri, USA, over the year 2006. Water in Mill Creek originates from several springs, with a single spring contributing over 90% of the stream discharge during much of the year of study. Soluble reactive phosphate concentrations were usually low (<10 μg L−1) along Mill Creek, but peaked during high discharge. Concentrations of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) were relatively high in the spring water, mainly as nitrate, but usually declined across a small pond and the 10-km length of Mill Creek. During low flows in summer and early autumn, the stream removed over 300 μg L−1 of DIN over its 10-km length, or about 80% of the initial amount. DIN retention along the stream, as a percentage of the DIN upstream, was related mainly to discharge, with higher flows having much higher DIN concentrations. The net uptake rate of DIN uptake was 0.91 μg m−2 s−1 in the stream during summer baseflow. The uptake rate declined downstream for different reaches and was closely related to DIN concentration. In experimental channels, uptake by epilithic algae was one significant sink for nitrate-N in Mill Creek. In 2006, inorganic nutrient export during a single day after a spring storm was similar to export during 40-100 days of low flow conditions in summer and early autumn. Our results suggest that significant nutrient retention can occur during baseflow periods via biological uptake, whereas substantial export occurs during high flow conditions.


Biological Sciences


Missouri Water Resources
Geological Survey (U.S.)
University of Missouri Research Board

Document Type

Article - Journal

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© 2010 Springer Verlag, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Mar 2010