Article open access publication

Simulating rewetting events in intermittent rivers and ephemeral streams: A global analysis of leached nutrients and organic matter

Global Change Biology, Wiley, ISSN 1365-2486

Volume 25, 5, 2019

DOI:10.1111/gcb.14537, Dimensions: pub.1111309270, PMC: PMC6850495, PMID: 30628191,


Shumilova, Oleksandra (1) (2) (3)
Zak, Dominik (2) (4) (5)
Tockner, Klement (2) (3) (10)
Campo, Rubén (3) (31)
Gessner, Mark O (3) (37)
Leigh, Catherine (26) (44)
Little, Chelsea J (12) (45)
Marshall, Jonathan (20) (26)
Steward, Alisha L (20) (26)



  1. (1) University of Trento, grid.11696.39
  2. (2) Free University of Berlin, grid.14095.39
  3. (3) Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, grid.419247.d
  4. (4) Aarhus University, grid.7048.b, AU
  5. (5) University of Rostock, grid.10493.3f
  6. (6) IRSTEA, UR RIVERLY, Centre de Lyon‐Villeurbanne, Villeurbanne Cedex, France
  7. (7) University of the Basque Country, grid.11480.3c
  8. (8) Laboratoire d'Écologie Alpine, grid.462909.0
  9. (9) University of Barcelona, grid.5841.8
  10. (10) FWF Austrian Science Fund, grid.25111.36
  11. (11) University of Oklahoma, grid.266900.b
  12. (12) University of Zurich, grid.7400.3
  13. (13) Centro de Edafología y Biología Aplicada del Segura, grid.418710.b
  14. (14) Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, grid.7489.2
  15. (15) University of Lorraine, grid.29172.3f
  16. (16) University of Concepción, grid.5380.e
  17. (17) University of California, Berkeley, grid.47840.3f
  18. (18) Edith Cowan University, grid.1038.a
  19. (19) University of Antioquia, grid.412881.6
  20. (20) Queensland Government, grid.453171.5
  21. (21) Federal University of São João del-Rei, grid.428481.3
  22. (22) University of San Diego, grid.267102.0
  23. (23) University of Arizona, grid.134563.6
  24. (24) La Trobe University, grid.1018.8
  25. (25) University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland, grid.16058.3a
  26. (26) Griffith University, grid.1022.1
  27. (27) University of Navarra, grid.5924.a
  28. (28) Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Continental Environments, grid.463801.8
  29. (29) State University of Vale do Acaraú, grid.442232.1
  30. (30) Water Research Institute – National Research Council (IRSA‐CNR), Montelibretti (Rome), Italy
  31. (31) University of Murcia, grid.10586.3a
  32. (32) University of Canberra, grid.1039.b
  33. (33) Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement, grid.8183.2
  34. (34) University of Windsor, grid.267455.7
  35. (35) University of Canterbury, grid.21006.35
  36. (36) INRA, UAR 1275 DEPT EFPA, Centre de recherche de Nancy, Champenoux, France
  37. (37) Technical University of Berlin, grid.6734.6
  38. (38) Université de Parakou, grid.440525.2
  39. (39) Umeå University, grid.12650.30
  40. (40) University of Coimbra, grid.8051.c
  41. (41) Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
  42. (42) Basque Centre for Climate Change, grid.423984.0
  43. (43) University of Otago, grid.29980.3a
  44. (44) Queensland University of Technology, grid.1024.7
  45. (45) Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, grid.418656.8
  46. (46) Institute for Ecological Chemistry, Plant Analysis and Stored Product Protection, Julius-Kuehn-Institute, Berlin, Germany
  47. (47) Department of Freshwater Conservation, BTU Cottbus‐Senftenberg, Bad Saarow, Germany
  48. (48) University of Münster, grid.5949.1
  49. (49) University of Zagreb, grid.4808.4
  50. (50) Rhodes University, grid.91354.3a
  51. (51) University of Granada, grid.4489.1
  52. (52) Missouri University of Science and Technology, grid.260128.f
  53. (53) Terra Cypria - The Cyprus Conservation Foundation, Limassol, Cyprus
  54. (54) Universidade de Vigo, grid.6312.6
  55. (55) Masaryk University, grid.10267.32
  56. (56) University of Montenegro, grid.12316.37
  57. (57) University of New England, grid.1020.3
  58. (58) University of Nis, grid.11374.30
  59. (59) Nottingham Trent University, grid.12361.37
  60. (60) University of Abou Bekr Belkaïd, grid.12319.38
  61. (61) James Cook University, grid.1011.1
  62. (62) University of Tübingen, grid.10392.39


Climate change and human pressures are changing the global distribution and the extent of intermittent rivers and ephemeral streams (IRES), which comprise half of the global river network area. IRES are characterized by periods of flow cessation, during which channel substrates accumulate and undergo physico-chemical changes (preconditioning), and periods of flow resumption, when these substrates are rewetted and release pulses of dissolved nutrients and organic matter (OM). However, there are no estimates of the amounts and quality of leached substances, nor is there information on the underlying environmental constraints operating at the global scale. We experimentally simulated, under standard laboratory conditions, rewetting of leaves, riverbed sediments, and epilithic biofilms collected during the dry phase across 205 IRES from five major climate zones. We determined the amounts and qualitative characteristics of the leached nutrients and OM, and estimated their areal fluxes from riverbeds. In addition, we evaluated the variance in leachate characteristics in relation to selected environmental variables and substrate characteristics. We found that sediments, due to their large quantities within riverbeds, contribute most to the overall flux of dissolved substances during rewetting events (56%-98%), and that flux rates distinctly differ among climate zones. Dissolved organic carbon, phenolics, and nitrate contributed most to the areal fluxes. The largest amounts of leached substances were found in the continental climate zone, coinciding with the lowest potential bioavailability of the leached OM. The opposite pattern was found in the arid zone. Environmental variables expected to be modified under climate change (i.e. potential evapotranspiration, aridity, dry period duration, land use) were correlated with the amount of leached substances, with the strongest relationship found for sediments. These results show that the role of IRES should be accounted for in global biogeochemical cycles, especially because prevalence of IRES will increase due to increasing severity of drying events.


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