Hydrologic and geomorphic controls on hyporheic exchange during base flow recession in a headwater mountain stream

Ward, Adam S. and Fitzgerald, Michael and Gooseff, Michael N. and Voltz, Thomas J. and Binley, Andrew M. and Singha, Kamini (2012) Hydrologic and geomorphic controls on hyporheic exchange during base flow recession in a headwater mountain stream. Water Resources Research, 48 (4). ISSN 0043-1397

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Hyporheic hydrodynamics are a control on stream ecosystems, yet we lack a thorough understanding of catchment controls on these flow paths, including valley constraint and hydraulic gradients in the valley bottom. We performed four whole-stream solute tracer injections under steady state flow conditions at the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest (Oregon, United States) and collected electrical resistivity (ER) imaging to directly quantify the 2-D spatial extent of hyporheic exchange through seasonal base flow recession. ER images provide spatially distributed information that is unavailable for stream solute transport modeling studies from monitoring wells alone. The lateral and vertical extent of the hyporheic zone was quantified using both ER images and spatial moment analysis. Results oppose the common conceptual model of hyporheic "compression'' by increased lateral hydraulic gradients toward the stream. We found that the extent of the hyporheic zone increased with decreasing vertical gradients away from the stream, in contrast to expectations from conceptual models. Increasing hyporheic extent was observed with both increasing and decreasing down-valley (i.e., parallel to the valley gradient) and cross-valley (i.e., from the hillslope to the stream, perpendicular to the valley gradient) hydraulic gradients. We conclude that neither cross-valley nor down-valley hydraulic gradients are sufficient predictors of hyporheic exchange flux nor flow path network extent. Increased knowledge of the controls on hyporheic exchange, the temporal dynamics of exchange flow paths, and their the spatial distribution is the first step toward predicting hyporheic exchange at the scale of individual flow paths. Future studies need to more carefully consider interactions between spatiotemporally dynamic hydraulic gradients and subsurface architecture as controls on hyporheic exchange.

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Journal Article
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Water Resources Research
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22 Mar 2013 09:14
Last Modified:
16 Sep 2023 00:52