A modelling study of hyporheic exchange pattern and the sequence, size, and spacing of stream bedforms in mountain stream networks, Oregon, USA

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Abstract

Studies of hyporheic exchange flows have identified physical features of channels that control exchange flow at the channel unit scale, namely slope breaks in the longitudinal profile of streams that generate subsurface head distributions. We recently completed a field study that suggested channel unit spacing in stream longitudinal profiles can be used to predict the spacing between zones of upwelling (flux of hyporheic water into the stream) and downwelling (flux of stream water into the hyporheic zone) in the beds of mountain streams. Here, we use two-dimensional groundwater flow and particle tracking models to simulate vertical and longitudinal hyporheic exchange along the longitudinal axis of stream flow in second-, third-, and fourth-order mountain stream reaches. Modelling allowed us to (1) represent visually the effect that the shape of the longitudinal profile has on the flow net beneath streambeds; (2) isolate channel unit sequence and spacing as individual factors controlling the depth that stream water penetrates the hyporheic zone and the length of upwelling and downwelling zones; (3) evaluate the degree to which the effects of regular patterns in bedform size and sequence are masked by irregularities in real streams. We simulated hyporheic exchange in two sets of idealized stream reaches and one set of observed stream reaches. Idealized profiles were constructed using regression equations relating channel form to basin area. The size and length of channel units (step size, pool length, etc.) increased with increasing stream order. Simulations of hyporheic exchange flows in these reaches suggested that upwelling lengths increased (from 2·7 m to 7·6 m), and downwelling lengths increased (from 2·9 m to 6·0 m) with increase in stream order from second to fourth order. Step spacing in the idealized reaches increased from 5·3 m to 13·7 m as stream size increased from second to fourth order. Simulated downwelling lengths increased from 4·3 m in second-order streams to 9·7 m in fourth-order streams with a POOL–RIFFLE–STEP channel unit sequence, and increased from 2·5 m to 6·1 m from second- to fourth-order streams with a POOL–STEP–RIFFLE channel unit sequence. Upwelling lengths also increased with stream order in these idealized channels. Our results suggest that channel unit spacing, size, and sequence are all important in determining hyporheic exchange patterns of upwelling and downwelling. Though irregularities in the size and spacing of bedforms caused flow nets to be much more complex in surveyed stream reaches than in idealized stream reaches, similar trends emerged relating the average geomorphic wavelength to the average hyporheic wavelength in both surveyed and idealized reaches. This article replaces a previously published version (Hydrological Processes, 19(17), 2915–2929 (2005) [DOI:10.1002/hyp.5790]. See also retraction notice DOI:10.1002/hyp.6350 Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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