Measuring the Pulse of Streams

Do streams have rhythm? Drs. Emily Bernhardt and Jim Heffernan believe that they do, thanks to the organisms living in streams (bacteria, fungi, insects, fish, salamanders) that are constantly altering the concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the ecosystem. StreamPULSE, a research project funded by the National Science Foundation and headed by Drs. Bernhardt and Heffernan, is defining the ‘rhythm of streams’ through the measurement of stream chemistry and conditions in geographically diverse locations over daily, seasonal, and annual time scales. Data are openly share across the research community, including ongoing datasets of water level, dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, fraction dissolved organic matter, pH, turbidity, conductivity, light, and temperature. These massive datasets, anchored in space and time, enable mathematical modeling of how floods, droughts and nutrients alter the capture of light and organic matter that fuel aquatic food webs. Ultimately, the data will enable scientists to more accurately define the energy regimes, or ‘metabolism,’ for nearly 500 streams and rivers in the United States, and develop climate forecasting models for stream ecosystems.

Permanent link to this article: