The hyporheic zone is the subsurface area below and adjacent to a stream where groundwater mixes with stream water, through vertical, lateral, and longitudinal flows. The hyporheic zone connects the stream to uplands and other terrestrial environments. It is a zone of distinct faunal communities, high biological diversity and ecological complexity, and is the site of chemical processing and transformations of ground- and stream waters. The hyporheic zone is important to the overall ecosystem ecology of the stream, and it can influence stream water chemistry. Flows, reactions, and biota in the hyporheic zone are heterogeneous and patchy, making it difficult to clearly describe the ecotone in a straightforward, general way. Nitrogen processing, especially denitrification, appears to be widespread in the hyporheic zone. The hyporheic zone, as with most aquatic systems, is often impacted by human activities. Stream restorations rarely consider potential effects on the hyporheic zone, but careful project choices can enhance the condition of the hyporheic zone, and so increase uptake of nitrogen by stream-associated environments as partial mitigation of continuing and increasing releases of reactive nitrogen, potentially reaping short-term benefits to estuarine environments that might not be as quickly realized from source control measures.
Merill, Leanne and Tonjes, David J., "A Review of the Hyporheic Zone, Stream Restoration, and Means to Enhance Denitrification" (2014). Technology & Society Faculty Publications. 5.
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