A portable, modular, self-contained recirculating chamber to measure benthic processes under controlled water velocity

Janine Rüegg, John D. Brant, Danelle M. Larson, Matt T. Trentman, Walter K. Dodds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


We report the design, construction, and functional characteristics of a sealable, portable chamber for measuring benthic metabolic process rates, particularly those under unidirectional flow as found in streams. The design optimizes inherent tradeoffs, such as size, stability, and cost, associated with chambers built for field-based measurements. The chamber is small enough to be portable and minimizes the water-volume:benthic surfacearea ratio. In addition, the chamber is clear to allow measurement of photosynthetic rates. The design minimizes power draw to sustain water velocities found at stream field sites and is modular to allow easy disassembly and cleaning. The design is relatively simple, thereby increasing sturdiness, minimizing construction costs, and decreasing the expertise required to build the unit. We demonstrated the performance characteristics, specifically amperage needed to achieve desired water velocity, flow heterogeneity and turbulence in the working area, the degree of isolation from atmosphere, mixing rate of solute injectate, and heating rate of the chamber. We provide proof of concept with data for in situ benthic rates (gross community production, community respiration, and NH4+ uptake). Publications on metabolic chambers built for in situ use do not typically report performance characteristics, so it is difficult to compare our design to existing literature. We include chamber characteristics to clarify the advantages and limitations of benthic rates measured in such chambers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-844
Number of pages14
JournalFreshwater Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2015


  • Air-tight seal
  • Benthic metabolism
  • Nutrient uptake
  • Patch-scale measurements


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