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Combined Effects of Stream Hydrology and Land Use on Basin-Scale Hyporheic Zone Denitrification in the Columbia River Basin

by Kyongho Son, Yilin Fang, Jesus D Gomez Velez, Kyuhyun Byun, Xingyuan Chen
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Journal Name
Water Resources Research
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Denitrification in the hyporheic zone (HZ) of river corridors is crucial to removing excess nitrogen in rivers from anthropogenic activities. However, previous modeling studies of the effectiveness of river corridors in removing excess nitrogen via denitrification were often limited to the reach-scale and low-order stream watersheds. We developed a basin-scale river corridor model for the Columbia River Basin with random forest models to identify the dominant factors associated with the spatial variation of HZ denitrification. Our modeling results suggest that the combined effects of hydrologic variability in reaches and substrate availability influenced by land use are associated with the spatial variability of modeled HZ denitrification at the basin scale. Hyporheic exchange flux can explain most of spatial variation of denitrification amounts in reaches of different sizes, while among the reaches affected by different land uses, the combination of hyporheic exchange flux and stream dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration can explain the denitrification differences. Also, we can generalize that the most influential watershed and channel variables controlling denitrification variation are channel morphology parameters (median grain size (D50), stream slope), climate (annual precipitation and evapotranspiration), and stream DOC-related parameters (percent of shrub area). The modeling framework in our study can serve as a valuable tool to identify the limiting factors in removing excess nitrogen pollution in large river basins where direct measurement is often infeasible.