Impact of drying and re-flooding of sediment on phosphorus dynamics of river-floodplain systems

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One of the consequences of human impacts on floodplains is a change in sedimentation leading to enhanced floodplain aggradation. Thus, accumulated sediments rich in nutrients might interfere with floodplain restoration. In this study we investigated the phosphorus release behavior of sediments from shallow backwaters of an isolated floodplain of the Danube River situated east of the city of Vienna with the aim to understand the effects of changes in dry/wet cycles on established floodplain sediments. In the light of restoration plans aiming at increased surface water exchange with the river main channel, the response of sediments to frequent alternations between desiccation and inundation periods is a key issue as changes of sediment properties are expected to affect phosphorus release. In order to determine the effect of changing hydrological conditions on internal phosphorus loading, we exposed sediments to different dry/wet treatments in a laboratory experiment. Total phosphorus (TP) release from sediments into the water column increased with increasing duration of dry periods prior to re-wetting. Partial correlation analysis showed significant positive correlations between δTP and δNH4+ as well as between δTP and δFe3+ concentrations (δ refers to the difference between the final and initial concentration during the wetting period), indicating that enhanced mineralization rates leading to a concomitant release of NH4+ and TP and the reduction of iron hydroxides leading to a concomitant release of Fe3+ and TP are the mechanisms responsible for the rise in TP. Repeated drying and wetting resulted in elevated phosphorus release. This effect was more pronounced when drying periods led to an 80% reduction in water content, indicating that the degree of drying is a major determinant controlling phosphorus release upon re-wetting. The reconnection of isolated floodplains will favor fluctuating hydrologic conditions and is therefore expected to initially lead to high rates of phosphorus release from sediments. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.




Schönbrunner, I. M., Preiner, S., & Hein, T. (2012). Impact of drying and re-flooding of sediment on phosphorus dynamics of river-floodplain systems. Science of the Total Environment, 432, 329–337.

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