Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Civil Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. James F. Fox


This dissertation investigated the impact of the Surficial Fine-Grained Laminae (SFGL) upon stream biogeochemical cycles to constrain stream C and N budgets. Collection and analysis of 8 years of transported sediment elemental and isotopic signatures, weekly, from a SFGL dominated stream, a novel dissolved C and N dataset, statistical and time-series analysis of sediment and dissolved data, and development of a comprehensive modeling framework that couples hydrodynamics, sediment, C and N biogeochemistry, and stable isotope sub-models to simulate fluvial C and N budgets was used. SFGL C modeling suggests benthic particulate C stocks and transport vary seasonally and annually but are in a state of long-term equilibrium which is governed by negative feedback mechanisms whereby high POC export due to extreme hydrologic events and high frequency hydrologic events reduces benthic particulate C stocks and inhibits benthic particulate C growth. Model distribution fitting suggests transported particulate C in SFGL streams is Gamma distributed; in which statistical moments are governed by variability of the SFGL. Stable isotope un-mixing of the bed source suggests that the SFGL has varying levels of carbon quality seasonally and annually, in which non-equilibrium conditions stem from extreme depositional events. Coupling stable isotope mass balance and SFGL fractionation processes into water quality modeling frameworks, reduced uncertainty of the C budget by nearly 60%, suggesting algal sloughing constitutes nearly 40% of the total organic C budget, shifting the balance from dissolved C to particulate C dominated. Time series analysis of the eight year dataset suggest nitrogen dynamics in the SFGL dominated stream were consistent with existing conceptual models when algal biomass is the prominent organic matter source in the SFGL, but contradicts conventional wisdom in winter through late spring when abiotic sorption appears prominent. The development of a new numerical model to simulate the fluvial N budget couples this new conceptual model of SFGL stream N dynamics to isotope mass-balances and C dynamics in order to provide a comprehensive management tool for restoration engineers. Meta-analysis and upscaling of results for regional to global scales will enable researchers to place the role of the SFGL in a broader context.