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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-339
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-339
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 25 Jul 2019

Submitted as: research article | 25 Jul 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Are hydrological pathways and variability in groundwater chemistry linked in the riparian boreal forest?

Stefan W. Ploum1, Hjalmar Laudon1, Andrés Peralta-Tapia2, and Lenka Kuglerová1 Stefan W. Ploum et al.
  • 1Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 901 86 Umeå, Sweden
  • 2Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Umeå University, 901 87 Umeå, Sweden

Abstract. The riparian zone, or near-stream area, plays an important role for the biogeochemistry of headwaters. Here groundwater undergoes a chemical transformation before it enters the stream. However, the riparian zone is not uniform and spatial variability of groundwater chemistry can be large. Terrestrial topographic depressions create hydrological pathways towards focal points in the riparian zone, which we refer to as Discrete Riparian Inflow Points (DRIPs). Given the important chemical function of the riparian zone, we therefore ask the question: are hydrological pathways and chemical variability linked in the riparian boreal forest? To answer this question, we sampled riparian groundwater during six campaigns across three boreal headwaters in Sweden. The groundwater wells were distributed in DRIP and non-DRIP pairs (60 wells), following transects from upland (20 meters lateral distance) to near stream area (< 5 meters lateral distance). The variability in dissolved organic carbon (DOC), pH and electrical conductivity (EC) was analyzed using linear mixed effect models (LMM). We explained the variability using three factors: distance from the stream, seasonality and hydrological connection/groundwater condition. Our results showed that DRIPs provided DOC rich water (34 mg/l) with relatively low EC (36 μS/cm). The so-called non-DRIP riparian water had on average 40 % lower DOC concentrations (20 mg/l) and 45 % higher EC (52 μS/cm). Moreover, DRIPs were chemically more stable from the upland area to the stream (20–25 meter) and throughout different seasons. In contrary, non-DRIP water transformed distinctly in the last 25 meters to the stream, and chemical variability also changed across the seasons. We concluded that hydrological pathways and spatial variability in groundwater are linked, and that DRIPs are control points in the boreal landscape. This finding is important for upscaling of stream inputs in boreal ecosystems, and for implementing hydrological adaptation into riparian forest management. However, for the understanding of underlying processes and mechanisms, we propose to investigate spatial variability of groundwater chemistry in a non-binary context, focusing on how groundwater chemistry relate to a gradient of hydrological fluctuations, soil properties and landscape characteristics.

Stefan W. Ploum et al.
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Short summary
Near-stream areas, riparian zones, are important for the health of stream and rivers. If these areas are disturbed by forestry or other human activity, it means that the water quality and all life in streams is at risk. We examined which riparian areas are particularly sensitive. It turned out that only few wet areas bring most of the rainwater from the landscape to the stream, and they have a unique water quality. In order to maintain healthy streams and rivers, these areas should be protected.
Near-stream areas, riparian zones, are important for the health of stream and rivers. If these...
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