Delivery of water, sediments, nutrients, and organic matter to stream ecosystems is strongly influenced by the catchment of the stream and can be altered greatly by upland soil and vegetation disturbance. At the Fort Benning Military Installation (near Columbus, Georgia), spatial variability in intensity of military training results in a wide range of intensities of upland disturbance in stream catchments. A set of 8 streams in catchments spanning this upland disturbance gradient was selected for investigation of the impact of disturbance intensity on hydrodynamics and nutrient uptake. The size of transient storage zones and rates of NH4 uptake in all study streams were among the lowest reported in the literature. Upland disturbance did not appear to influence stream hydrodynamics strongly, but it caused significant decreases in instream nutrient uptake. In October 2003, coarse woody debris (CWD) was added to ½ of the study streams (spanning the disturbance gradient) in an attempt to increase hydrodynamic and structural complexity, with the goals of enhancing biotic habitat and increasing nutrient uptake rates. CWD additions had positive short-term (within 1 mo) effects on hydrodynamic complexity (water velocity decreased and transient storage zone cross-sectional area, relative size of the transient storage zone, fraction of the median travel time attributable to transient storage over a standardized length of 200 m, and the hydraulic retention factor increased) and nutrient uptake (NH4 uptake rates increased). Our results suggest that water quality in streams with intense upland disturbances can be improved by enhancing instream biotic nutrient uptake capacity through measures such as restoring stream CWD.
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