Diurnal Changes in a Stream Ecosystem: An Energy and Nutrient Budget Approach

  • Robert G. Wetzel
  • Gene E. Likens


Numerous physical, chemical, and biological processes interact to produce a stream ecosystem. Small streams tend to reflect the conditions of the drainage area and usually are chemically and physically dynamic and biologically rich.

In this exercise we will attempt to observe various properties of a small stream ecosystem. By measuring and integrating some of the major physical and biological components of the energy and nutrient budgets (energy and mass balances) during a 24-h period, it will be possible to evaluate aspects of the functional role of streams within the landscape as a whole. We will be interested in the fate of solar radiation as it enters the ecosystem, how much is used to heat the water, how much potential energy is lost as water flows downhill, how much of the solar energy is utilized by plant photosynthesis in the stream and converted to stored chemical energy, and how much of the stored chemical energy is used by various components of the stream ecosystem. Some attention also will be given to the flux of nutrients through the stream ecosystem.

Small steams provide excellent opportunities for such studies. Sampling can be done relatively efficiently and inexpensively. In addition to the techniques and approaches discussed below, see Odum (1957), Teal (1957), Minckley (1963), Hall (1972), Manny and Wetzel (1973), and Fisher and Likens (1973) for further information about such studies of stream and spring ecosystems.


Dissolve Oxygen Ecosystem Respiration Diurnal Change Downstream Site Stream Ecosystem 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert G. Wetzel
    • 1
  • Gene E. Likens
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biology, College of Arts and SciencesUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Cary ArboretumThe New York Botanical GardenMillbrookUSA

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