Riparian zone flowpath dynamics during snowmelt in a small headwater catchment
The hydrology of the near-stream riparian zone in upland humid catchments is poorly understood. We examined the spatial and temporal aspects of riparian flowpaths during snowmelt in a headwater catchment within the Sleepers River catchment in northern Vermont. A transect of 15 piezometers was sampled for Ca, Si, DOC, other major cations, and δ18O. Daily piezometric head values reflected variations in the stream hydrograph induced by melt and rainfall. The riparian zone exhibited strong upward discharge gradients. An impeding layer was identified between the till and surficial organic soil. Water solute concentrations increased toward the stream throughout the melt. Ca concentrations increased with depth and DOC concentrations decreased with depth. The concentrations of Ca in all piezometers were lower during active snowmelt than during post-melt low flow. Ca data suggest snowmelt infiltration to depth; however, only upslope piezometers exhibited snowmelt infiltration and consequent low δ18O values, while δ18O values varied less than 0.5% in the deep riparian piezometers throughout the study period. Ca and δ18O values in upslope piezometers during low streamflow were comparable to Ca and δ18O in riparian piezometers during high streamflow. The upland water Ca and δ18O may explain the deep riparian Ca dilution and consistent δ18O composition. The temporal pattern in Ca and δ18O indicate that upland water moves to the stream via a lateral displacement mechanism that is enhanced by the presence of distinct soil/textural layers. Snowmelt thus initiates the flux of pre-melt, low Ca upland water to depth in the riparian zone, but itself does not appear at depth in the riparian zone during spring melt. This is despite the coincident response of upland groundwater and stream discharge.
McGlynn, BL; McDonnell, JJ; Shanley, JB; Kendall, C
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