Hydrological influences on hyporheic water quality: implications for salmon egg survival



The spatial and temporal variability of groundwater–surface-water (GW–SW) interactions was investigated in an intensively utilized salmon spawning riffle. Hydrochemical tracers, were used along with high-resolution hydraulic head and temperature data to assess hyporheic dynamics. Surface and subsurface hydrochemistry were monitored at three locations where salmon spawning had been observed in previous years. Temperature and hydraulic head were monitored in three nests of three piezometers located to characterize the head, the run and the tail-out of the riffle feature. Hydrochemical gradients between surface and subsurface water indicated increasing GW influence with depth into the hyporheic zone. Surface water was characterized by high dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations, low alkalinity and conductivity. Hyporheic water was generally characterized by high levels of alkalinity and conductivity indicative of longer residence times, and low DO, indicative of reducing conditions. Hydrochemical and temperature gradients varied spatially over the riffle in response to changes in local GW–SW interactions at the depths investigated. Groundwater inputs dominated the head and tail of the riffle. The influence of SW increased in the area of accelerating flow and decreasing water depth through the run of the riffle. Temporal GW–SW interactions also varied in response to changing hydrological conditions. Gross changes in hyporheic hydrochemistry were observed at the weekly scale in response to changing flow conditions and surface water inputs to the hyporheic zone. During low flows, caused by freezing or dry weather, hyporheic hydrochemistry was dominated by GW inputs. During higher flows hyporheic hydrochemistry indicated that SW contributions increased. In addition, high-resolution hydraulic head data indicated that rapid changes in GW–SW interactions occurred during hydrological events. The spatial, and possibly the temporal, variability of GW–SW interactions had a marked effect on the survival of salmon ova. It is concluded that hyporheic dynamics and their effect on stream ecology should be given increased consideration by fisheries and water resource managers. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.