Hot Zones and Hot Moments

April 2010 paper: “Hot Spots and Hot Moments in Riparian Zones: Potential for Improved Water Quality Management,” by Philippe Vidon, Craig Allan, Douglas Burns, Tim P. Duval, Noel Gurwick, Shreeram Inamdar, Richard Lowrance, Judy Okay, Durelle Scott and Steve Sebestyen.

The authors look at biologically and hydrologically heterogeneous processes, or “hot spots and moments” of retention, degradation, or production. Studies of “hot” phenomena in riparian zones traditionally have focused on nitrogen, but the authors summarize current knowledge for phosphorus, organic matter, pesticides, and mercury across riparian zones.

Modelers and regulators might like to deal with uniform processes, or at least things that vary smoothly and regularly. Nature, however, is very non-uniform both temporally and spatially. (See JAWRA-09-0031the accompanying figure.) Biogeochemical hot spots/moments are generally governed by subtle changes in electron acceptor and donor availability, redox conditions, and hydrological conditions. This heterogeneity presents significant challenges for riparian management. The authors conclude, “The recognition of the importance of hot phenomena in annual watershed contaminant budgets is likely to lead to the development of a new generation of water quality models where spatial and temporal heterogeneity is better characterized.”

I would consider this article a “must read” for anyone planning research into the chemistry of riparian zones.

[Please note: I have quoted and paraphrased freely from the article, but the interpretation is my own!]

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