Reach-scale model of aquatic vegetation quantifies N fate in a bedrock-controlled karst agroecosystem stream

Nolan L. Bunnell, William I. Ford, Alex W. Fogle, Joseph Taraba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In-stream fate of nutrients in karst agroecosystems remains poorly understood. The significance of these streams is recognized given spring/surface water confluences have been identified as hotspots for biogeochemical transformations. In slow-moving streams high in dissolved inorganic nutrients, benthic and floating aquatic macrophytes are recognized to proliferate and drastically impact nutrient fate; however, models that quantify coupled interactions between these pools are limited. We present a reach-scale modeling framework of nitrogen dynamics in bedrock-controlled streams that accounts for coupled interactions between hydrology, hydraulics, and biotic dynamics and is validated using a multi-year, biweekly dataset. A fluvial N budget with uncertainty was developed to quantify transformation dynamics for the dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) pool using a GLUE-like modeling framework, and scenario analyses were run to test for model function over variable environmental conditions. Results from a 10,000 run uncertainty analysis yielded 195 acceptable parameter sets for the calibration period (2000-2002), 47 of which were acceptable for the validation period (2003) (Nash-Sutcliffe Efficiency (NSE) > 0.65; percent bias (PBIAS) < ±15), with significantly different posterior parameter spaces for parameters including denitrification coefficients and duckweed growth factors. The posterior solution space yielded model runs with differing biomass controls on DIN, including both algae and duckweed, but suggested duckweed denitrifies at a rate that would place the bedrock agroecosystem stream on the high-end of rates reported in the literature, contradicting the existing paradigm about bedrock streams. We discuss broader implications for watershed-scale water quality modeling and implementation strategies of management practices for karst agroecosystems, particularly with respect to stream restoration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2458
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors.


  • Benthic algae
  • Floating aquatic macrophytes
  • In-stream denitrification
  • In-stream nitrate removal
  • Karst agroecosystem
  • Nitrogen fate and transport modeling
  • Nitrogen loading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Reach-scale model of aquatic vegetation quantifies N fate in a bedrock-controlled karst agroecosystem stream'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this