AGU 2011 abstract from our NSF stormwater project

I’m not claiming credit for this project, as it was as undergraduate summer research project advised by my collaborator Sara McMillan, but it is one tangible bit of results that have come out of our NSF-funded stormwater project. More good things are coming soon.

The following poster was presented at the AGU 2011 fall meeting.

The influence of stormwater management practices on denitrification rates of receiving streams in an urban watershed

AU: *Cronenberger, M S
AF: Environmental Sciences, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC, USA
AU: McMillan, S K
AF: Engineering Technology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC, USA

Increasing urbanization and the subsequent disruption of floodplains has led to the need for implementing stormwater management strategies to mitigate the effects of urbanization, including soil and streambank erosion, increased export of nutrients and contaminants and decreased biotic richness. Excessive stormwater runoff due to the abundance of impervious surfaces associated with an urban landscape has led to the ubiquitous use of best management practices (BMPs) to attenuate runoff events and prevent the destructive delivery of large volumes of water to stream channels. As a result, effluent from BMPs (i.e. wetlands and wet ponds) has the potential to alter the character of the receiving stream channel and thus, key ecosystem processes such as denitrification. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which BMPs, in the form of constructed wetlands and wet ponds, influence in-stream denitrification rates in the urban landscape of Charlotte, NC. Four sites, two of each BMP type, were evaluated. Sediment samples were collected upstream and downstream of the BMP outflow from May-July 2011 to determine the effect of wetland discharge on in-stream nitrogen removal via denitrification. Denitrification rates were determined using the acetylene block method; water column nutrient and carbon concentrations and sediment organic matter content were also measured. Generally, wetland sites exhibited higher denitrification rates, nitrate concentrations and sediment organic matter content. Our work and others has demonstrated a significant positive correlation between nitrate concentration and denitrification rates, which is the likely driver of the higher observed rates at the wetland sites. Geomorphology was also found to be a key factor in elevated denitrification rates at sites with riffles and boulder jams. Sediment organic matter was found to be higher downstream of BMP outflows at all four sites, but demonstrated no significant relationship with denitrification rates. We are continuing to investigate these spatial (e.g. BMPs, streams) and temporal (e.g. storm pulse, delayed wetland release) patterns, particularly in the context of factors that influence the specific drivers of denitrification. Understanding these patterns is critical to managing stormwater in urban landscapes as we aim to improve water quality while enhancing ecosystem functions.

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