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Urban streams are exposed to multiple different stressors on a regular basis, with increased hydrological flashiness representing a common urban stream stressor. Stream metabolism, the coupled ecosystem functions of gross primary production (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (ER), controls numerous other ecosystem functions and integrates multiple processes occurring within streams. We examined the effect of one large (Superstorm Sandy) and multiple small and moderately sized flood events in Baltimore, Maryland, to quantify the response and recovery of urban stream GPP and ER before and after floods of different magnitudes. We also compared GPP and ER before and after Superstorm Sandy to literature values. We found that both GPP and ER decreased dramatically immediately following floods of varying magnitudes, but on average GPP was more reduced than ER (80% and 66% average reduction in GPP and ER, respectively). Both GPP and ER recovered rapidly following floods within 4–18 d, and recovery intervals did not differ significantly between GPP and ER. During the two-week recovery following Superstorm Sandy, two urban streams exhibited a range of metabolic activity equivalent to ~15% of the entire range of GPP and ER reported in a recent meta-analysis of stream metabolism. Urban streams exhibit a substantial proportion of the natural variation in metabolism found across stream ecosystems over relatively short time scales. Not only does urbanization cause increased hydrological flashiness, it appears that metabolic activity in urban streams may be less resistant, but also more resilient to floods than in other streams draining undeveloped watersheds, which have been more studied. Our results show that antecedent conditions must be accounted for when drawing conclusions about stream metabolism measurements, and the rapid recovery and resilience of urban streams should be considered in watershed management and stream restoration strategies targeting ecosystem functions and services.


This article was originally published in Ecosphere, available at DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.1776. 2017.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.



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