Impact of overlying water velocity on ammonium uptake by benthic biofilms

Shai Arnon, Keren Yanuka, Ali Nejidat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The effect of the overlying water velocity on ammonium (NH4+) uptake by benthic biofilms was studied in a recirculating laboratory flume (260cm long, 29cm wide), packed with 5cm of silica sand arranged into bedforms. NH4+ uptake was determined as the reduction in NH4+ concentration in the water at average overlying water velocities of 0.8, 2, 4 and 8cms-1. NH4+ uptake was relatively constant under laminar flow conditions but increased when the flow regime became turbulent (>4cms-1). This pattern was observed for two biofilms differing in their total biomass and in the abundance of the ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, thus indicating that NH4+ uptake was strongly controlled by mass-transfer processes. The near stoichiometric relationship between the rates of NH4+ uptake and nitrate (NO3-) accumulation suggests that aerobic nitrification was the main route for NH4+ uptake. Microelectrode measurements showed a sharp decline of oxygen concentrations and pH values within the biofilms, thus supporting strong nitrification activity within the surficial section of the benthic biofilms. The results of this study highlight the key role of hydrodynamic conditions in regulating NH4+ uptake in the transition from laminar to turbulent flow conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-578
Number of pages9
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number4
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2013


  • Biofilm
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Hyporheic zone
  • Nitrification
  • Nutrient dynamics
  • Water velocity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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