Organic Sediment Nutrient Concentrations and their Relationship with the Hydrological Connectivity of Floodplain Waters (River Havel, NE Germany)

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Abstract

Investigations on large canalised rivers, for example the Danube, have shown that transported particulate matter, which is typically inorganic, is predominantly deposited in waters near the river's main channel. This investigation deals with the lower section of the River Havel (NE Germany), a canalised lowland river with a very flat floodplain. This river is highly polluted by nutrients from urban areas (Berlin) and a long chain of river lakes produces high concentrations of phytoplankton. Due to the high proportion of planktogenic detritus, it was hypothesised that greater quantities of nutrient-rich fine particulate organic matter (FPOM) would be deposited in floodplain waters located further from the main channel than has been reported for large rivers. The total nutrient, P-binding metal (Fe, Al, and Mn), organic and inorganic carbon (TOC, TIC) contents of the upper organic sediment layer (0-4 cm) were analysed in samples collected from 48 floodplain water and river sites. The sediment bulk density, calculated on the basis of dry mass content and loss on ignition, was used to characterise the waters according to the impact of the river current. The results showed that the variability of total phosphorus (TP) was best explained by the variability of total iron (TFe, R2 = 0.52). The floodplain water sediments could clearly be separated into two groups on the basis of the sediment particle size composition, and of the element ratios TOC:TP, TN:TP, primarily TFe:TP. The sediments from impounded river sections and from mouth sections of backwaters (approx. 100-200 m) were characterised by a high proportion particles from the 0.1 to 0.5 mm size fraction and by homogeneous, low TFe:TP, TOC:TP and TN:TP ratios. Sediments from distal sections of backwaters and of oxbow lakes tended to exhibit high element ratios with much higher variability. These results were interpreted as a spatially limited impact of the river on the floodplain water sediments. Contrary to expectation, the phosphorus bound in river seston was predominantly and very homogeneously deposited in the impounded river and mouth sections of backwaters. This implies that the inundation of the floodplain waters during spring floods seems to have no important material impact on the sediments in waters of low hydrological connectivity with the River Havel.

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