2014–15 Basin-scale evaluation of Commonwealth environmental water — Stream Metabolism and Water Quality

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Whole stream metabolism, usually abbreviated to ‘stream metabolism’, refers to the transformation of organic matter and is comprised of two key ecological processes — primary production and decomposition — which generate and recycle organic matter, respectively. Here, organic matter refers to living and dead animal and plant matter.

Stream metabolism measures the production and consumption of dissolved oxygen gas by photosynthesis (primary production) and respiration. Primary producers use light to photosynthesise (producing oxygen) and respire (consuming oxygen), while decomposers (mostly bacteria and fungi) only respire. This enables daily rates of primary production and ecosystem respiration to be measured by monitoring changes in the dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration in the water column over short-term intervals (e.g. 10 minutes) over the full 24-hour period. Healthy aquatic ecosystems need both processes to generate new organic matter (which becomes food for organisms higher up the food chain) and to break down plant and animal matter to recycle nutrients to enable this growth to occur. Hence, metabolism assesses the energy base (organic carbon supply) underpinning aquatic foodwebs.

In essence, these processes have a profound effect on ecosystem character and condition through their influence on the capacity of plants to complete their life-cycles and the ability of animals to acquire the food resources needed to survive and reproduce.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWodonga VIC Australia
PublisherMurray–Darling Freshwater Research Centre (MDFRC)
Commissioning bodyCommonwealth Environmental Water Office
Number of pages46
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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