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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed
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Research article
05 Sep 2016
Review status
A revision of this discussion paper is under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).
Pedological and hydrogeological setting and subsurface flow structure of the carbonate-rock CZE Hainich in western Thuringia, Germany
Bernd Kohlhepp1, Robert Lehmann1, Paul Seeber1, Kirsten Küsel2,3, Susan E. Trumbore4, and Kai U. Totsche1 1Hydrogeology, Institute of Geosciences, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Burgweg 11, 07749 Jena, Germany
2Aquatic Geomicrobiology, Institute of Ecology, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Dornburger Strasse 159, 07743 Jena, Germany
3German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) , Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Deutscher Platz 5d, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
4Biogeochemical Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Jena, Hans-Knöll-Str. 10, 07745 Jena, Germany
Abstract. The quality of near surface groundwater reservoirs is to a large extent controlled by land use and the properties of the soils in the recharge areas. Studies on groundwater quality and vulnerability, therefore, call for a thorough and holistic analysis of the buildup and hydraulic properties of the full range of surface and subsurface compartments involved in the interactions of water with immobile surfaces of the soils and rocks. This study provides a comprehensive characterization of the soils senso stricto, the unsaturated zone, aquifer stratigraphy and hydrochemistry in a hillslope karst environment of a carbonate-rock subcatchment of the Hainich Critical Zone Exploratory (CZE). This CZE is located within the Upper Muschelkalk Formations in the Hainich low mountain range, Thuringia, central Germany. We investigated the soils, surface geology, land use types and the infiltration properties based on a field survey. Aquifer stratigraphy, lithology and structure were analyzed based on drill core analysis, mineralogical analysis and geophysical borehole logs. Hydrogeochemical data from 15 permanent monitoring wells along a 5.4 km long hillslope transect were analyzed for major and minor ions, total and dissolved organic and inorganic carbon during a 4 year monitoring period and were statistically evaluated.

The geological succession of the interlayered and laterally continuous limestone (karst/) fracture aquifers and marlstone aquitards of the Upper Muschelkalk results in two main aquifer assemblages (HTL and HTU = Hainich transect lower/upper aquifer assemblage), which comprise ten previously undocumented individual aquifer storeys. The geologically inferred stratification of the subsurface was confirmed by principal component analysis and cluster analysis of groundwater chemistry. According to groundwater compositions within the HTL and HTU assemblages, there are 5 main clusters (2 in HTU and 3 in HTL). Soil properties are related to infiltration rates and the initial chemistry of recharge waters. The reconstructed recharge zones for the aquifer storeys are characterized by predominantly forest land use on "carbonate series" soils and cropland/pasture land use on "siliceous series" soils, the latter developed from quarternary aeolian loess and alluvial valley fills.

Based on the local geological structure, aquifers in the lower positions of the litho/hydrostratigraphy (i.e. HTL) outcrop in higher slope positions, show greater catchment sizes and a greater limestone/marlstone-ratio. The latter leads to thin soils, low water retention potential and predominantly forest land use, resulting in presumably high groundwater recharge rates and little anthropogenic influence on groundwater quality. As the subsurface stratification enforces confined groundwater flow, intrastratal karstification and the resulting hydraulic conductivity increases (and groundwater residence time decreases) with increasing bed thickness and limestone/marlstone ratio towards the lower portions of the stratigraphic succession. By implication, aquifers in the upper litho/hydrostratigraphic positions (HTU) exhibit small and partly agriculturally managed catchments with thick soils, low infiltration potential and, based on thinly bedded aquifer/aquitard successions, low hydraulic conductivities and long groundwater residence times. All in all, the complex interplay of geological structure, lithology, soil group and land use type results in distinct hydrochemical, and presumably ecological conditions in the different aquifers.

Citation: Kohlhepp, B., Lehmann, R., Seeber, P., Küsel, K., Trumbore, S. E., and Totsche, K. U.: Pedological and hydrogeological setting and subsurface flow structure of the carbonate-rock CZE Hainich in western Thuringia, Germany, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., doi:10.5194/hess-2016-374, in review, 2016.
Bernd Kohlhepp et al.
Bernd Kohlhepp et al.
Bernd Kohlhepp et al.


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