A conceptual framework for understanding the biogeochemistry of dry riverbeds through the lens of soil science

María Isabel Arce, Clara Mendoza-Lera, María Almagro, Núria Catalán, Anna M. Romaní, Eugènia Martí, Rosa Gómez, Susana Bernal, Arnaud Foulquier, Michael Mutz, Rafael Marcé, Annamaria Zoppini, Giulia Gionchetta, Gabriele Weigelhofer, Rubén del Campo, Christopher T. Robinson, Alan Gilmer, Martin Rulik, Biel Obrador, Oleksandra ShumilovaSanja Zlatanović, Shai Arnon, Petr Baldrian, Gabriel Singer, Thibault Datry, Nikos Skoulikidis, Britta Tietjen, Daniel von Schiller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Intermittent rivers and ephemeral streams (IRES) encompass fluvial ecosystems that eventually stop flowing and run dry at some point in space and time. During the dry phase, channels of IRES consist mainly of dry riverbeds (DRBs), prevalent yet widely unexplored ecotones between dry and wet phases that can strongly influence the biogeochemistry of fluvial networks. DRBs are often overlooked because they do not strictly belong to either domain of soil or freshwater science. Due to this dual character of DRBs, we suggest that concepts and knowledge from soil science can be used to expand the understanding of IRES biogeochemistry. Based on this idea, we propose that DRBs can be conceptually understood as early stage soils exhibiting many similarities with soils through two main forces: i) time since last sediment transport event, and ii) the development status of stabilizing structures (e.g. soil crusts and/or vascular plants). Our analysis suggests that while DRBs and soils may differ in master physical attributes (e.g. soil horizons vs fluvial sedimentary facies), they become rapidly comparable in terms of microbial communities and biogeochemical processes. We further propose that drivers of DRBs biogeochemistry are similar to those of soils and, hence, concepts and methods used in soil science are transferable to DRBs research. Finally, our paper presents future research directions to advance the knowledge of DRBs and to understand their role in the biogeochemistry of intermittent fluvial networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-453
Number of pages13
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Aquatic-terrestrial interfaces
  • Cross-ecosystem research
  • Drought
  • Non-perennial
  • Sediments
  • Temporary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (all)


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