The functional significance of the hyporheic zone in streams and rivers

Andrew J. Boulton, Stuart Findlay, Pierre Marmonier, Emily H. Stanley, H. Maurice Valett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

946 Scopus citations


The hyporheic zone is an active ecotone between the surface stream and groundwater. Exchanges of water, nutrients, and organic matter occur in response to variations in discharge and bed topography and porosity. Upwelling subsurface water supplies stream organisms with nutrients while downwelling stream water provides dissolved oxygen and organic matter to microbes and invertebrates in the hyporheic zone. Dynamic gradients exist at all scales and vary temporally. At the microscale, gradients in redox potential control chemical and microbially mediated nutrient transformations occurring on particle surfaces. At the stream-reach scale, hydrological exchange and water residence time are reflected in gradients in hyporheic faunal composition, uptake of dissolved organic carbon, and nitrification. The hyporheic corridor concept describes gradients at the catchment scale, extending to alluvial aquifers kilometers from the main channel. Across all scales, the functional significance of the hyporheic zone relates to its activity and connection with the surface stream.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-81
Number of pages23
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology and Systematics
StatePublished - 1998


  • Aquatic ecosystems
  • Ecotone
  • Hydrology
  • Model
  • Scale


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