Date of Award
Master of Science
Accurately measuring denitrification in stochastic floodplains, particularly the leveed and unleveed reaches of the Mississippi River basin, requires innovative experiments. To replicate hydraulic variability ranging from overland flooding to groundwater exfiltration in floodplain wetlands, I incubated sediment cores collected from four field sites across the Dogtooth Bend of the middle Mississippi River; pairing novel deep injection (Graphic Abstract Fig. A, left) with traditional surface delivery (Graphic Abstract Fig. A, right) of both oxic and anoxic Mississippi River water. In sandy sediments with unconstrained flux of nutrients, denitrification more than doubled across a range from 192 to 429 mg N m-2 day-1 in a linear anoxic-injection hierarchy of anoxic deep > anoxic surface > oxic deep > oxic surface treatments. In contrast, for incubations in diffusion-limited clay sediments, injection type made no difference; however, in anoxic conditions denitrification rates were as high as 435 mg N m-2 day-1 compared to oxic incubations at 187 mg N m-2 day-1. This methodology reveals the magnitude of diverse denitrification rates spanning different hydrologic conditions (Abstract Fig. B) and the mediation of denitrification by sediment type. These findings provide quantified bounds to inform resource management decisions regarding what areas should be selected for protection or hydrologic reconnection to best facilitate nutrient processing services like denitrification under varying hydrologic conditions.
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