Coarse particulate organic matter dynamics in ephemeral tributaries of a Central Appalachian stream network

Ken M. Fritz, Gregory J. Pond, Brent R. Johnson, Chris D. Barton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Headwater ephemeral tributaries are interfaces between uplands and downstream waters. Terrestrial coarse particulate organic matter (CPOM) is important in fueling aquatic ecosystems; however, the extent to which ephemeral tributaries are functionally connected to downstream waters through fluvial transport of CPOM has been little studied. Hydrology and deposition of leaf and wood, and surrogate transport (Ginkgo biloba leaves and wood dowels) were measured over month-long intervals through the winter and spring seasons (6 months) in 10 ephemeral tributaries (1.3–5.4 ha) in eastern Kentucky. Leaf deposition and surrogate transport varied over time, reflecting the seasonality of litterfall and runoff. Leaf deposition was higher in December than February and May but did not differ from January, March, and April. Mean percent of surrogate leaf transport from the ephemeral tributaries was highest in April (3.6% per day) and lowest in February (2.5%) and May (2%). Wood deposition and transport had similar patterns. No CPOM measures were related to flow frequency. Ephemeral tributaries were estimated to annually contribute 110.6 kg AFDM·km−1·yr−1 of leaves to the downstream mainstem. Ephemeral tributaries are functionally connected to downstream waters through CPOM storage and subsequent release that is timed when CPOM is often limited in downstream waters.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02654
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Michael and Frank Borsuk for their craftsmanship with the dowel rods, Henry and Carter Fritz for Ginkgo leaf collection, Alex Hall (Dynamac, Inc.) and Ellen D'Amico (Pegasus Technical Services, Inc.) for GIS support, and David Collett, Neva Williams, and Chris Osborne at the University of Kentucky's Robinson Forest for their support and hospitality. We are grateful for the support from USEPA's Regional Research Partnership Program. Special thanks to Christopher Nietch for discussing modeling approaches, and to Roger Burke, Michael McManus, Michael Paul, and two anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments on the manuscript. Although this work was reviewed by USEPA and approved for publication, it might not necessarily reflect official Agency policy. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use. We dedicate this paper in memory of Ben Stout, 1957–2018.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors.


  • connectivity
  • deposition
  • ephemeral tributary
  • lag function
  • leaf litter
  • seasonality
  • storage
  • transport
  • wood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Coarse particulate organic matter dynamics in ephemeral tributaries of a Central Appalachian stream network'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this