Organic matter loading by hippopotami causes subsidy overload resulting in downstream hypoxia and fish kills.
ABSTRACT: Organic matter and nutrient loading into aquatic ecosystems affects ecosystem structure and function and can result in eutrophication and hypoxia. Hypoxia is often attributed to anthropogenic pollution and is not common in unpolluted rivers. Here we show that organic matter loading from hippopotami causes the repeated occurrence of hypoxia in the Mara River, East Africa. We documented 49 high flow events over 3 years that caused dissolved oxygen decreases, including 13 events resulting in hypoxia, and 9 fish kills over 5 years. Evidence from experiments and modeling demonstrates a strong mechanistic link between the flushing of hippo pools and decreased dissolved oxygen in the river. This phenomenon may have been more widespread throughout Africa before hippopotamus populations were severely reduced. Frequent hypoxia may be a natural part of tropical river ecosystem function, particularly in rivers impacted by large wildlife.
Project description:The Mara River Basin in East Africa is a trans-boundary basin of international significance experiencing excessive levels of sediment loads. Sediment levels in this river are extremely high (turbidities as high as 6,000 NTU) and appear to be increasing over time. Large wildlife populations, unregulated livestock grazing, and agricultural land conversion are all potential factors increasing sediment loads in the semi-arid portion of the basin. The basin is well-known for its annual wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) migration of approximately 1.3 million individuals, but it also has a growing population of hippopotami (Hippopotamus amphibius), which reside within the river and may contribute to the flux of suspended sediments. We used in situ pressure transducers and turbidity sensors to quantify the sediment flux at two sites for the Mara River and investigate the origin of riverine suspended sediment. We found that the combined Middle Mara-Talek catchment, a relatively flat but semi-arid region with large populations of wildlife and domestic cattle, is responsible for 2/3 of the sediment flux. The sediment yield from the combined Middle Mara-Talek catchment is approximately the same as the headwaters, despite receiving less rainfall. There was high monthly variability in suspended sediment fluxes. Although hippopotamus pools are not a major source of suspended sediments under baseflow, they do contribute to short-term variability in suspended sediments. This research identified sources of suspended sediments in the Mara River and important regions of the catchment to target for conservation, and suggests hippopotami may influence riverine sediment dynamics.
Project description:In many regions of the world, populations of large wildlife have been displaced by livestock, and this may change the functioning of aquatic ecosystems owing to significant differences in the quantity and quality of their dung. We developed a model for estimating loading rates of organic matter (dung) by cattle for comparison with estimated rates for hippopotamus in the Mara River, Kenya. We then conducted a replicated mesocosm experiment to measure ecosystem effects of nutrient and carbon inputs associated with dung from livestock (cattle) versus large wildlife (hippopotamus). Our loading model shows that per capita dung input by cattle is lower than for hippos, but total dung inputs by cattle constitute a significant portion of loading from large herbivores owing to the large numbers of cattle on the landscape. Cattle dung transfers higher amounts of limiting nutrients, major ions and dissolved organic carbon to aquatic ecosystems relative to hippo dung, and gross primary production and microbial biomass were higher in cattle dung treatments than in hippo dung treatments. Our results demonstrate that different forms of animal dung may influence aquatic ecosystems in fundamentally different ways when introduced into aquatic ecosystems as a terrestrially derived resource subsidy.
Project description:Since temperature is a key factor affecting photosynthetic and respiration rates, the rates of gross primary production (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (ER) are expected to be lower for rivers at higher latitudes, while the net ecosystem production (NEP) rate likely decrease in rivers at lower latitude due to higher sensitivity of ER to temperature compared with GPP. To examine these possibilities, we estimated the ecosystem metabolism of 30 rivers located from 43.03°N to 32.38°N in Japan during summer using a Bayesian model with hourly changes in dissolved oxygen concentrations. In addition, we examined latitudinal trends of GPP, ER and NEP in a global scale by compiling and analyzing river metabolic data estimated in previous studies. Our analysis showed that both GPP and ER tended to increase with latitude, although these rates were positively related to water temperature in Japanese rivers. Global dataset of GPP and ER also showed increasing trend towards higher latitude. In addition, contrary to our initial expectations, NEP decreased with latitude and most rivers were net heterotrophic at both regional (Japanese rivers) and global scales. These results imply that the latitudinal temperature effect on river metabolism is masked by other factors not examined in this study, such as land use in the watershed, which play pivotal roles in explaining the latitudinal variation of river metabolism.
Project description:Biogeochemical processing of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in headwater rivers regulates aquatic food web dynamics, water quality, and carbon storage. Although headwater rivers are critical sources of energy to downstream ecosystems, underlying mechanisms structuring DOM composition and reactivity are not well quantified. By pairing mass spectrometry and fluorescence spectroscopy, here we show that hydrology and river geomorphology interactively shape molecular patterns in DOM composition. River segments with a single channel flowing across the valley bottom export DOM with a similar chemical profile through time. In contrast, segments with multiple channels of flow store large volumes of water during peak flows, which they release downstream throughout the summer. As flows subside, losses of lateral floodplain connectivity significantly increase the heterogeneity of DOM exported downstream. By linking geomorphologic landscape-scale processes with microbial metabolism, we show DOM heterogeneity increases as a function of fluvial complexity, with implications for ecosystem function and watershed management.
Project description:Cross-boundary transfers of nutrients can profoundly shape the ecology of recipient systems. The common hippopotamus, Hippopotamus amphibius, is a significant vector of such subsidies from terrestrial to river ecosystems. We compared river pools with high and low densities of H. amphibius to determine how H. amphibius subsidies shape the chemistry and ecology of aquatic communities. Our study watershed, like many in sub-Saharan Africa, has been severely impacted by anthropogenic water abstraction reducing dry-season flow to zero. We conducted observations for multiple years over wet and dry seasons to identify how hydrological variability influences the impacts of H. amphibius During the wet season, when the river was flowing, we detected no differences in water chemistry and nutrient parameters between pools with high and low densities of H. amphibius Likewise, the diversity and abundance of fish and aquatic insect communities were indistinguishable. During the dry season, however, high-density H. amphibius pools differed drastically in almost all measured attributes of water chemistry and exhibited depressed fish and insect diversity and fish abundance compared with low-density H. amphibius pools. Scaled up to the entire watershed, we estimate that H. amphibius in this hydrologically altered watershed reduces dry-season fish abundance and indices of gamma-level diversity by 41% and 16%, respectively, but appears to promote aquatic invertebrate diversity. Widespread human-driven shifts in hydrology appear to redefine the role of H. amphibius, altering their influence on ecosystem diversity and functioning in a fashion that may be more severe than presently appreciated.
Project description:The distribution of dissolved and particulate forms of 49 elements was investigated along transect of the Tigris River (one of the major rivers of the world) within Baghdad city and in its major tributary (Diyala River) from 11 to 28 July 2011. SF-ICP-MS was used to measure total and filterable elements at 17 locations along the Tigris River transect, two samples from the Diyala River, and in one sample from the confluence of the two rivers. The calculated particulate forms were used to determine the particle-partition coefficients of the metals. No major changes in the elements concentrations down the river transect. Dissolved phases dominated the physical speciation of many metals (e.g., As, Mo, and Pt) in the Tigris River, while Al, Fe, Pb, Th, and Ti were exhibiting high particulate fractions, with a trend of particle partition coefficients of [Ti(40) > Th(35) > Fe(15) > Al(13) > Pb(4.5)] ? 10(6)?L/kg. Particulate forms of all metals exhibited high concentrations in the Diyala River, though the partition coefficients were low due to high TSS (~270?mg/L). A comparison of Tigris with the major rivers of the world showed that Tigris quality in Baghdad is comparable to Seine River quality in Paris.
Project description:Streams and rivers metabolize dissolved organic matter (DOM). Although most DOM compounds originate from natural sources, recreational use of rivers increasingly introduces chemically distinct anthropogenic DOM. So far, the ecological impact of this DOM source is not well understood. Here, we show that a large music festival held adjacent to the Traisen River in Austria increased the river's dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration from 1.6 to 2.1 mg L-1 and stream ecosystem respiration from -3.2 to -4.5 mg L-1. The DOC increase was not detected by sensors continuously logging absorbance spectra, thereby challenging their applicability for monitoring. However, the fluorescence intensity doubled during the festival. Using parallel factor analysis, we were able to assign the increase in fluorescence intensity to the chemically stable UV-B filter phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid, indicating organic compounds in sunscreen and other personal care products as sources of elevated DOC. This observation was confirmed by liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry. The elevated respiration is probably fueled by anthropogenic DOM contained in beer and/or urine. We conclude that intense recreational use of running waters transiently increases the anthropogenic DOM load into stream ecosystems and alters the fluvial metabolism. We further propose that chemically distinct, manmade DOM extends the natural range of DOM decomposition rates in fluvial ecosystems.
Project description:C and N species, including dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), NO₃- and NH₄⁺ contents in 57 river water samples collected from the Mun River of Thailand were measured to determine the relationships between these dissolved load species and their impacts on the environment. DOC values varied between 1.71 and 40.08 mg/L, averaging 11.14 mg/L; DON values ranged from 0.20 to 1.37 mg/L, with an average value of 0.48 mg/L; NO₃--N values averaged 0.18 mg/L; and NH₄⁺-N values averaged 0.15 mg/L. DOC contents increased while DON and NO₃- values decreased along the flow direction. The concentrations of NH₄⁺ maintained the same level in the whole watershed. DOC and DON values exhibited clearly higher concentrations in comparison with other rivers worldwide and were inextricably linked with anthropogenic inputs. The relationships of DOC, DON, and anthropogenic ions imply that there are two different anthropogenic sources (industrial activities and agricultural activities) of the dissolved load in the Mun River watershed. The limited correlations between the DON, NO₃-, and NH₄⁺ indicate that the N species are not dominated by a single factor, and reciprocal transformations of riverine N pool are complex. Based on the environmental water quality standard reported by the EC (European Communities) and the World Health Organization, assessments of the water quality using the parameters of pH, dissolved oxygen (DO), NO₃-, NH₄⁺, and TN (total nitrogen) in the Mun River were conducted. The results demonstrate that the river water faces potential environmental pollution, and anthropogenic inputs endanger local water quality and the aquatic community. Therefore, the local government should restrict and reduce the anthropogenic inputs discharged in to rivers, and launch long-term monitoring of water quality.
Project description:Rivers provide crucial ecosystem services in water-stressed drylands. Australian dryland rivers are geomorphologically diverse, ranging from through-going, single channels to discontinuous, multi-channelled systems, yet we have limited understanding of their sensitivity to future hydroclimatic changes. Here, we characterise for the first time the geomorphology of 29 dryland rivers with catchments across a humid to arid gradient covering >1,800,000?km<sup>2</sup> of continental eastern and central Australia. Statistical separation of five specific dominantly alluvial river types and quantification of their present-day catchment hydroclimates enables identification of potential thresholds of change. Projected aridity increases across eastern Australia by 2070 (RCP4.5) will result in ~80% of the dryland rivers crossing a threshold from one type to another, manifesting in major geomorphological changes. Dramatic cases will see currently through-going rivers (e.g. Murrumbidgee, Macintyre) experience step changes towards greater discontinuity, characterised by pronounced downstream declines in channel size and local termination. Expanding our approach to include other river styles (e.g. mixed bedrock-alluvial) would allow similar analyses of dryland rivers globally where hydroclimate is an important driver of change. Early identification of dryland river responses to future hydroclimatic change has far-reaching implications for the ~2 billion people that live in drylands and rely on riverine ecosystem services.
Project description:Marine diatoms require dissolved silicate to form an external shell, and their growth becomes Si-limited when the atomic ratio of silicate to dissolved inorganic nitrogen (Si:DIN) approaches 1:1, also known as the "Redfield ratio." Fundamental changes in the diatom-to-zooplankton-to-higher trophic level food web should occur when this ratio falls below 1:1 and the proportion of diatoms in the phytoplankton community is reduced. We quantitatively substantiate these predictions by using a variety of data from the Mississippi River continental shelf, a system in which the Si:DIN loading ratio has declined from around 3:1 to 1:1 during this century because of land-use practices in the watershed. We suggest that, on this shelf, when the Si:DIN ratio in the river decreases to less than 1:1, then (i) copepod abundance changes from >75% to <30% of the total mesozooplankton, (ii) zooplankton fecal pellets become a minor component of the in situ primary production consumed, and (iii) bottom-water oxygen consumption rates become less dependent on relatively fast-sinking (diatom-rich) organic matter packaged mostly as zooplankton fecal pellets. This coastal ecosystem appears to be a pelagic food web dynamically poised to be either a food web composed of diatoms and copepods or one with potentially disruptive harmful algal blooms. The system is directed between these two ecosystem states by Mississippi River water quality, which is determined by land-use practices far inland.