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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

The riparian reactive interface: a climate-sensitive gatekeeper of global nutrient cycles

Stutter, Marc; Baggaley, Nikki J.; Davies, Jess; Gagkas, Zisis; Janes-Bassett, Victoria; Laudon, Hjalmar; Lilly, Allan; Lupon, Anna; Musolff, Andreas; Trojahn, Sara; Haygarth, Philip M.


Riparian zones are critical interfaces to freshwater systems, acting as gateways for the conveyance and modification of macronutrient fluxes from land to rivers and oceans. In this paper, we propose that certain riparian conditions and processes (conceptually 'Riparian Reactive Interfaces') may be susceptible to environmental change with consequences of accelerating local nutrient cycling cascading to global impacts on the cycles of carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P). However, we argue that this concept is insufficiently understood and that research has not yet established robust baseline data to predict and measure change at the key riparian ecosystem interface. We suggest one contributing factor as lack of interdisciplinary study of abiotic and biotic processes linking C, N, and P dynamics and another being emphasis on riparian ecology and restoration that limits frameworks for handling and scaling topography-soil-water-climate physical and biogeochemical observations from plot to large catchment scales. Scientific effort is required now to evaluate riparian current and future controls on global nutrient cycles through multi-nutrient (and controlling element) studies, grounded in landscape frameworks for dynamic riparian behaviour variation, facilitating scaling to catchment predictions.


riparian; macronutrient; environmental change; soil; landscape; spatio-temporal; global nutrient cycles

Published in

Frontiers in Environmental Science
2023, Volume: 11, article number: 1213175

    Sustainable Development Goals

    Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences

    Publication identifier


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