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The Influence of Geomorphic Structure and Hydrology on Denitrification Potential in the Willamette River Floodplain Research Perspective

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Abstract

Nitrate-nitrogen is a pollutant that threatens ecosystem and human health. Floodplains are critical habitats that support elevated nitrogen retention, particularly denitrification. Restoring hydrologic connectivity can enhance denitrification and the overall ecological condition of nitrogen-polluted stream and river ecosystems, including but not limited to the Willamette River floodplain. Identifying and connecting biogeochemical hot spots hydrologically can create large nitrogen sinks because denitrification increases when flooding connects river and the floodplain. Previous research shows that geomorphic structures and habitats, such as floodplain water-bodies (Forshay and Stanley 2005) and inchannel macrophyte beds (Forshay 2007), are capable of supporting elevated denitrification rates due to elevated organic carbon. Identifying geomorphic structures and improving connectivity with these hotspots should be a goal of restoration in nitrogen-polluted systems. Research Objectives For the Willamette Ecosystem Services Project, the research objectives are to: • Identify floodplain habitats that enhance nitrogen-retention ecosystem services through denitrification and quantify nitrogen retention • Assess biogeochemical benefits of restoring floodplains • Develop ecological guidelines for stream and river floodplain restoration Proposed Approach The Willamette River floodplain contains diverse habitats and land use that includes agriculture, forests, and ongoing restoration to reconnect the floodplain to the river hydrologically. These factors are likely to have diverse effects on the patterns and drivers of biogeochemical nitrogen processing. To determine the pattern and drivers of nitrogen retention and denitrification in the floodplains and ultimately in the riparian corridors of the Willamette, researchers measure denitrification in habitats common to the Willamette floodplain that can potentially be promoted to improve and enhance naturally occurring nitrogen-retention ecosystem services. These figures showing the Green Island floodplain outlined in red, a depressional area of a historic channel at Green Island, and agricultural irrigation of grass seed fields

Year: 2014
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