U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5171
By: Dale W. Blevins, U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Conservation
The lack of concurrent water-quality and hydrologic data on riparian wetlands in the Midwestern United States has resulted in a lack of knowledge about the water-quality functions that these wetlands provide. Therefore, Little Bean Marsh, a remnant riparian wetland along the Missouri River, was investigated in 1996 and 1997 primarily to determine the magnitude and character of selected water-quality benefits that can be produced in such a wetland and to identify critical processes that can be managed in remnant or restored riparian wetlands for amelioration of water quality.
Little Bean Marsh averages 69 hectares in size, has a maximum depth of about 1 meter, and the majority of the marsh is covered by macrophytes. In 1997, 41 percent of the water received by Little Bean Marsh was from direct precipitation, 14 percent was from ground-water seepage, 30 percent from watershed runoff, and 15 percent was backflow from Bean Lake. Although, Little Bean Marsh was both a ground-water recharge and discharge area, discharge to the marsh was three times the recharge to ground water. Ground-water levels closely tracked marsh water levels indicating a strong hydraulic connection between ground water and the marsh. Reduced surface runoff and ground-water availability are stabilizing influences on marsh hydrology and probably contribute to the persistence of emergent vegetation. The rapid hydraulic connection between Little Bean Marsh and ground water indicates that the hydrologic regime of most wetlands along the lower Missouri River is largely a function of the altitude of the marsh bottom relative to the altitude of the water table.
More water was lost from the marsh through evapotranspiration (59 percent) than all other pathways combined. This is partially because the transpiration process of abundant macrophytes can greatly contribute to the evapotranspiration above that lost from open water surfaces. Surface outflow accounted for 36 percent and ground-water seepage accounted for only 5 percent of the losses. Large residence times allows the marsh to greatly affect water quality before water escapes as ground-water recharge or surface outflow.
The shallowness of Little Bean Marsh and ion exclusion during ice formation caused the highest specific conductances of 1,100 to 1,300 microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius to occur during the winter. This concentration of dissolved solutes under ice can make wetlands more vulnerable to toxic contaminants than deeper surface-water bodies.
Dissolved oxygen was less than 5 mg/L (milligrams per liter) for 3 to 4 months and near 0 mg/L for about 1 month in summer. Despite depths of less than 1 meter, temperature stratification persisted more than 3 months during the summers of 1996 and 1997, preventing mixing and contributing to periods of anoxia. Shallow depths and extended periods of anoxia in the marsh limit the ability of some organisms to escape high-temperature stress.
Turbidity in Little Bean Marsh usually was low for several reasons: sediment loadings from the largely flood-plain drainage were low, emergent vegetation shade out algae and shield the water from wind, and high concentrations of bivalent cations increase flocculation rates of inorganic suspended material. The high concentrations of bivalent cations was largely because of a substantial amount of ground-water seepage into the marsh.
Dissolved organic nitrogen was the dominant nitrogen species in Little Bean Marsh. Denitrification and biotic uptake kept more than 62 percent of nitrate (NO3) and 43 percent of ammonium (NH4) concentrations in marsh samples less than a detection limit of 0.005 mg/L. This contrasts with the Missouri River where inorganic NO3 dominates. Consequently, artificial flood-plain drainage that bypasses riparian wetlands likely deliver substantially more biotically available inorganic nitrogen to receiving waters than surface water that has been routed through a remnant wetland. Average total nitrogen concentrations in Little Bean Marsh were substantially less than those at other Missouri River wetlands, roughly one-half the mean concentrations in the Missouri River, but roughly twice the average nitrogen values in reservoirs of the glaciated plains of Missouri.
The largest concentrations of nearly all species of nitrogen and phosphorus and the most intense period of hypereutrophy coincided with a phytoplankton bloom and senescence of River Bulrush (Scirpus fluviatilis) and common cattail (Typha latifolia) in September 1997. The rapid leaching of nitrogen that occurs soon after macrophyte senescence combined with a recent destratification of the marsh probably provided nitrogen to the nitrogen-limited open-water areas and triggered a phytoplankton bloom. Despite the rarity of runoff events, surface runoff from the watershed, combined with atmospheric deposition, contributed more than seven times the 530 kg (kilograms) of nitrogen that escaped Little Bean Marsh in surface outflow during 1997. Atmospheric deposition alone was more than 530 kg. Seepage to ground water contained less than 1.5 percent of the nitrogen leaving the marsh in surface outflow. The slow decay rate of Scirpus fluviatilis and reducing conditions in bottom sediments make burial of organic nitrogen a substantial sink of nitrogen.
Denitrification experiments indicate that denitrification rates were limited by NO3 in the water column. Consequently, decomposition and nitrification of NH4 and organic nitrogen are the rate limiting steps of nitrogen removal in Little Bean Marsh. The NO3-limited rates of denitrification also indicate that Little Bean Marsh has a large unused capacity for nitrogen removal. These data indicate that the vast extent of riparian marshes along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers may have had a substantial role in limiting NO3 loads to the Gulf of Mexico before agricultural development of flood plains. Drainage and removal of riparian marshes may be a major cause of the increased NO3 loads to the Gulf of Mexico.
Periods of anoxia had much larger effects on phosphorus release than the other variables. The largest concentrations of phosphorus occurred in late summer and corresponded with senescing macrophytes, periods of anoxia, and a large algal bloom in Little Bean Marsh. Low water levels prevented the escape of phosphorus in surface outflow during these periods of highest phosphorus concentrations. Dry weather in late summer is typical and probably makes the correspondence of low water levels, anoxia, and consequent low phosphorus release a common occurrence in marshes along the Missouri River. Little Bean Marsh retained more than 95 percent of the phosphorus it received. The amount of phosphorus in surface inflows to the marsh were more than one order of magnitude greater than that escaping in surface outflows. The long hydraulic residence time of the marsh and large contributions of iron from ground water (that provide many sorption sites for phosphorus) make the marsh an effective sediment and phosphorus trap.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Background and Problem
Purpose and Scope
Study Area Description
Methods and Materials
Turbidity and Total Suspended Solids
Dissolved Organic Carbon
Nitrogen Cycling and Denitrification
Sinks and Sources of Nitrogen
Contributions from Storm Runoff
Sinks and Sources of Phosphorus
Comparisons with the Missouri River, nearby Wetlands, and Missouri Reservoirs
Summary and Conclusions
|Conversion Factors and Datum|
|centimeter (cm)||0.3937||inch (in.)|
|meter (m)||3.281||foot (ft)|
|kilometer (km)||0.6214||mile (mi)|
|hectare (ha)||0.003861||square mile (mi2)|
|cubic meter (m3)||264.2||gallon (gal)|
|Flow rate cubic meter per day (m3/d)||35.31||cubic foot per day (ft3/d)|
|cubic meter per day (m3/d)||264.2||gallon per day (gal/d)|
|kilometer per hour (km/h)||0.6214||mile per hour (mi/hr)|
|gram (g)||0.03527||ounce, avoirdupois (oz)|
|kilogram (kg)||2.205||pound avoirdupois (lb)|
|gram per cubic centimeter (g/cm3)||62.4220||pound per cubic foot (lb/ft3)|
|meter per day (m/d)||3.281||foot per day (ft/d)|
|meter per kilometer (m/km)||5.27983||foot per mile (ft/mi)|
|kilograms per hectare per year [(kg/ha)/yr]||0.8921||pounds per acre per year [(lb/acre)/yr]|
Temperature in degrees Celsius (°C) may be converted to degrees Fahrenheit (°F) as follows: °F = (1.8 x °C) + 32
Vertical coordinate information is referenced to the National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD 29).
Horizontal coordinate information is referenced to the North American Datum of 1927 (NAD 27).
Altitude, as used in this report, refers to distance above the National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD 29).
Specific conductance is given in microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius (µS/cm at 25°C).
Concentrations of chemical constituents in water are given either in milligrams per liter (mg/L) or micrograms per liter (µg/L).
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Last modified: Thursday, January 10 2013, 06:39:45 PM