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The hydraulic characteristics and geochemistry of hyporheic and parafluvial zones in Arctic tundra streams, North Slope, Alaska


, : The hydraulic characteristics and geochemistry of hyporheic and parafluvial zones in Arctic tundra streams, North Slope, Alaska. Advances in Water Resources 26(9): 907-923

Sodium bromide and Rhodamine WT were used as conservative tracers to examine the hydrologic characteristics of seven tundra streams in Arctic Alaska, during the summers of 1994-1996. Continuous tracer additions were conducted in seven rivers ranging from 1st to 5th order with samples collected from instream, hyporheic, and parafluvial locations. Tracer data was used as input for a computer model to estimate hydrologic characteristics of each study reach. While solute concentrations during the tracer additions indicated that steady-state or "plateau" conditions had been reached, interstitial samples indicated that there were additional hyporheic and parafluvial zones that had not been fully labeled at the time of apparent steady state in the stream channel (plateau). Exchange between channel and hyporheic water was a function of location within a pool-riffle sequence, with rapid downwelling at the head of riffles and delayed upwelling in riffle tails. The extent of exchange between channel and hyporheic water was positively correlated with apparent streambed hydraulic conductivity. Tracer additions indicated interstitial velocities ranging from 0.030 to 0.075 cm s (super -1) and hydraulic conductivities from 2.4 to 12.2 cm s (super -1) . Hyporheic and in-channel samples were collected for N, P, DO, and CO (sub 2) analyses in conjunction with conservative tracer additions in four of the stream reaches for which the interstitial velocities were also determined. Transformation rates based on these data indicated that there was rapid nitrification of mineralized organic N and production of ammonium, phosphate, and carbon dioxide in the interstitial zones of all four reaches. Dissolved oxygen did not appear to be limiting in the reaches studied. The hyporheic zone of all four reaches was a source of nitrate, carbon dioxide, and ammonium to the channel water based on the average concentration of upwelling waters. Increased contact time with hyporheic and parafluvial zones was related to decreased temperature and increased conductivity. Net nitrogen flux from the hyporheic zone was equivalent to 14-162% of benthic N uptake requirements for the Kuparuk River. These observations are important because we expected that the presence of continuous permafrost in this Arctic environment would limit the importance of hyporheic processes, either physically (i.e., through the presence of a restricting thaw bulb in the permafrost) or biogeochemically (i.e., through low temperatures). Instead, we found that biogeochemical processes in the hyporheic zone of these Arctic streams are at least as important as it is in similar temperate stream ecosystems.

US$19.90

DOI: 10.1016/s0309-1708(03)00078-2


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