Variability in isotopic composition of base flow in two headwater streams of the southern Appalachians


Journal Article

© 2016. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. We investigated the influence of hillslope scale topographic characteristics and the relative position of hillslopes along streams (i.e., internal catchment structure) on the isotopic composition of base flow in first-order, forested headwater streams at Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory. The study focused on two adjacent forested catchments with different topographic characteristics. We used stable isotopes (18O and 2H) of water together with stream gauging and geospatial analysis to evaluate relationships between internal catchment structure and the spatiotemporal variability of base flow δ18O. Base flow δ18O was variable in space and time along streams, and the temporal variability of base flow δ18O declined with increasing drainage area. Base flow became enriched in 18O moving along streams from channel heads to catchment outlets but the frequency of enrichment varied between catchments. The spatiotemporal variability in base flow δ18O was high adjacent to large hillslopes with short flow paths, and it was positively correlated with the relative arrangement of hillslopes within the catchment. These results point to influence of unique arrangement of hillslopes on the patterns of downstream enrichment. Spatial variability in base flow δ18O within the streams was relatively low during dry and wet conditions, but it was higher during the transition period between dry and wet conditions. These results suggest that the strength of topographic control on the isotopic composition of base flow can vary with catchment wetness. This study highlights that topographic control on base flow generation and isotopic composition is important even at fine spatial scales.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Singh, NK; Emanuel, RE; McGlynn, BL

Published Date

  • June 1, 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 52 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 4264 - 4279

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1944-7973

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0043-1397

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/2015WR018463

Citation Source

  • Scopus