Predictive modeling of transient storage and nutrient uptake: Implications for stream restoration

Ben L. O'Connor, Miki Hondzo, Judson W. Harvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


This study examined two key aspects of reactive transport modeling for stream restoration purposes: the accuracy of the nutrient spiraling and transient storage models for quantifying reach-scale nutrient uptake, and the ability to quantify transport parameters using measurements and scaling techniques in order to improve upon traditional conservative tracer fitting methods. Nitrate (NO3-) uptake rates inferred using the nutrient spiraling model underestimated the total NO3- mass loss by 82%, which was attributed to the exclusion of dispersion and transient storage. The transient storage model was more accurate with respect to the NO3- mass loss (±20%) and also demonstrated that uptake in the main channel was more significant than in storage zones. Conservative tracer fitting was unable to produce transport parameter estimates for a riffle-pool transition of the study reach, while forward modeling of solute transport using measured/scaled transport parameters matched conservative tracer breakthrough curves for all reaches. Additionally, solute exchange between the main channel and embayment surface storage zones was quantified using first-order theory. These results demonstrate that it is vital to account for transient storage in quantifying nutrient uptake, and the continued development of measurement/scaling techniques is needed for reactive transport modeling of streams with complex hydraulic and geomorphic conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1018-1032
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Hydraulic Engineering
Issue number12
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Fluvial Hydraulics
  • Nutrient loads
  • Restoration
  • Surface waters
  • Transport phenomena


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