• bedrock flow;
  • headwater catchment;
  • water balance;
  • chloride budget;
  • runoff characteristics


In this paper, we examined the role of bedrock groundwater discharge and recharge on the water balance and runoff characteristics in forested headwater catchments. Using rigorous observations of catchment precipitation, discharge and streamwater chemistry, we quantified net bedrock flow rates and contributions to streamwater runoff and the water balance in three forested catchments (second-order to third-order catchments) underlain by uniform bedrock in Japan. We found that annual rainfall in 2010 was 3130 mm. In the same period, annual discharge in the three catchments varied from 1800 to 3900 mm/year. Annual net bedrock flow rates estimated by the chloride mass balance method at each catchment ranged from −1600 to 700 mm/year. The net bedrock flow rates were substantially different in the second-order and third-order catchments. During baseflow, discharge from the three catchments was significantly different; conversely, peak flows during large storm events and direct runoff ratios were not significantly different. These results suggest that differences in baseflow discharge rates, which are affected by bedrock flow and intercatchment groundwater transfer, result in the differences in water balance among the catchments. This study also suggests that in these second-order to third-order catchments, the drainage area during baseflow varies because of differences between the bedrock drainage area and surface drainage area, but that the effective drainage area during storm flow approaches the surface drainage area. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.