A regression approach to estimating reactive solute uptake in advective and transient storage zones of stream ecosystems

Steven A. Thomas, H. Maurice Valett, Jackson R. Webster, Patrick J. Mulholland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


A method is developed, the Regression Partitioning Method (RPM), for estimating the proportion of reactive solute uptake occurring within transient storage zones of streams. The RPM is a technique for analyzing solute addition data in which whole stream uptake (mg m-2 d-1) is determined from the longitudinal pattern in plateau tracer concentrations. At one location, a time series of samples are collected that define the 'rising limb' of the solute breakthrough curve. The y-intercept estimated by regressing a measure of reactive tracer availability (e.g. NO3-15N:Cl ratio) and the percentage of tracer that has resided within, and returned from, the transient storage zone (i.e. hyporheic zone) was used to predict channel-specific NO3 uptake rates. Uptake within the transient storage zone of stream-derived material is calculated by difference. Several numerical steps are developed that link uptake rate estimates to first-order reaction rate constants (λC and λS, min-1) more commonly used to describe solute behavior in one-dimensional transport models. The RPM was used to analyze the results of 2 stable isotope additions performed in Snake Den Branch, a small headwater stream in western North Carolina, USA. Channel-specific uptake rates (UC) ranged from 10.6 to 23.0 mg NO3-N m-2 d-1 and slightly exceeded uptake in the transient storage zone (US), which varied from 10.1 to 18.2 mg NO3-N m-2 d-1. Uptake within the transient storage zone accounted for 44-49% of the total uptake. λC and λS estimates ranged from 0.023 to 0.034 min-1 and 0.011 to 0.024 min-1, respectively. These processing rates correspond to solute residence times of 30-44 min and 41-90 min in the channel and storage zones, respectively. Finally, we assess the sensitivity of our approach to variation in the subsurface uptake coefficient and differing proportions of uptake occurring within the hyporheic zone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)965-976
Number of pages12
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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