Hyporheic Exchange Along the River Continuum

Project Title:Interactions Between Streams and Groundwater Along the River Continuum: Scaling up to a Stream Network

Project Duration: 1-May-2000 - 30-Apr-2005
Principal Investigators:
Steve Wondzell (Oregon State University, U.S. Forest Service)
Roy Haggerty (Oregon State University)
Fredrick Swanson (Oregon State University, U.S. Forest Service)

Overview: The River Continuum Concept provides a framework within which scientists are able to conceptualize changes in stream ecosystem processes from headwaters to oceans. We propose that along the same continuum, stream geomorphic characteristics change predictably, and that those changes also drive changes in hyporheic exchange and hyporheic zone extent. Previous hyporehic zone research has been confined to relatively short stream reaches (generally < 1 km). Within a larger view, one conceptual model that has been put forth for a "hyporehic continuum" proposes that alternating constrained and unconstrained reaches control hyporheic zone extent, "like beads on a string". Our project activities have been focused on the geomorphic template of streams, which drives hyporheic exchange, and its nature within a stream network.

Geomorphic Controls on Hyporheic Exchange:
We have characterized the controls on scaling of hyporheic exchange flow from the reach to the network, using data from geomorphology, stream tracer tests, and groundwater hydraulics. We have shown how hyporheic exchange flow is driven by the geomorphic expression of the stream, which we have quantified through detailed topographic surveys of more than 12 km of streams in the 64-km2 Lookout Creek Basin and through installation of piezometers networks in 3 reaches. We found that longitudinal stream water and bed surface profiles are critical drivers of hyporheic exchange in 2nd through 5th-order mountain streams.

Key results from this part of our work include:

  • potential for hyporheic exchange is correlated to the concavity of the longitudinal water surface profile, which is strongly correlated to basin area;
  • spatial scales of hyporheic exchange are well approximated by the wavelength of the step-pool morphology

This part of the study provides a physical basis for making predictions about the scaling of hyporheic zones in step-pool streams based on the shape of the water surface profile and correlates this to basin area.

Piezometers installed on a 2nd-order reach.
2nd-order stream in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, photo by Mike Gooseff.

New Stream Tracer Technique: We have developed and applied a new stream tracer technique that measures the residence time distribution (RTD) in the hyporheic zone of a stream. The method uses late-time concentrations of RWT dye (or other tracers) measured with a field fluorometer in real time at one or more downstream locations after a release. Because the late-time concentrations are very sensitive to the hyporheic RTD, the technique is able to quantify hyporheic transient storage processes more precisely than conventional methods. Results from more than 10 different stream reaches suggest that hyporheic exchange RTDs display power-law behavior. Efforts to characterize the mean hyporheic residence time in these streams will fail because the underlying distribution of RTDs has either a very large or an infinite variance. This implies the hyporheic zone has a very large range of exchange timescales, with significant quantities of water and solutes stored over all time-scales from short to long.
map of HJ Andrews Exp. Forest
Hyporheic Exchange and Groundwater Flow Models: We have developed a series of calibrated groundwater flow models, in 2 and 3 dimensions, of 4 stream reaches to evaluate hyporheic exchange in these reaches. Tracer tests in these reaches were modeled and compared to existing data to verify model predictions. We have also used solute transport and groundwater flow models to generate residence time distributions, thereby connecting geomorphic data to stream tracer data for the first time. Groundwater models appear to be helpful in our understanding of hyporheic exchange, but preliminary results suggest that they are sensitive to parameters that are difficult to obtain, such as the thickness and bottom topography of alluvium-bedrock contact. The methodology also shows that there are some discrepancies between hyporheic volumes and residence times based on geomorphic stream surveys and those measured by stream tracer tests

Network-Tracer Test: In the summer of 2003 we performed a network-scale RWT stream tracer experiment to investigate spatial scaling of hyporheic exchange charactersitics along the river continuum. This data are currently being analyzed.

Location: Our field sites are located in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, which encompasses the Lookout Creek basin (5th-order).

Scientific Papers:

Haggerty, R., S. M. Wondzell, and M. A. Johnson. 2002. Power-law residence time distribution in the hyporheic zone of a 2nd-order mountain stream. Geophysical Research Letters, 29:1640, doi:10.1029/2002GL014743.

Kasahara, T. and S. M. Wondzell. 2003. Geomorphic controls on hyporheic exchange flow in mountain streams. Water Resources Research 39:1005, doi:10.1029/2002WR001386.

Gooseff, M. N., S. M. Wondzell, R. Haggerty, and J. K. Anderson. 2003. Comparing transient storage modeling and residence time distribution (RTD) analysis in geomorphically varied reaches in the Lookout Creek basin, Oregon, USA. Advances in Water Resources, 26:925-937.

Gooseff, MN, JK Anderson, SM Wondzell, J LaNier, and R Haggerty. 2006. A modeling study of hyporheic exchange pattern and the sequence, size, and spacing of stream bedforms in mountain stream networks, Oregon, USA. Hydrological Processes, 20(11): 2443-2457.

Anderson, JK, SM Wondzell, MN Gooseff , and R Haggerty. 2005. Patterns in stream longitudinal profiles and implications for hyporheic exchange flow at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, Oregon, USA. Hydrological Processes, 19(15): 2931-2949.

Gooseff, MN, J LaNier, R Haggerty, and K Kokkeler. 2005. Determining in-channel (dead zone) transient storage by comparing solute transport in a bedrock channel-alluvial channel sequence, Oregon. Water Resources Research, 41, W06014, doi:10.1029/2004WR003513.

Wondzell, SM. 2006. Effect of morphology and discharge on hyporheic exchange flows in two small streams in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, USA.
Hydrological Processes, 20(2): 267-287.

Gooseff, M. N., R. Haggerty, J. LaNier, J. K. Anderson, and S. M. Wondzell. In review. Common ground in Hyporheic exchange studies: Corroborating memory functions from groundwater flow and stream solute transport modeling. Water Resources Research.

Conference Presentations:

Gooseff, M. N., R. Haggerty, S. M. Wondzell, and J. K. Anderson. 2002.  Characterizing the cascade effect of upstream hyporheic exchange in mountain streams.  Geological Society of America Cordilleran Spring Meeting, Corvallis, OR.

Anderson, J. K., S. M. Wondzell, and M. N. Gooseff. 2002. Stream geomorphology, water surface slope, and implications for patterns in hyporheic exchange flow. Geological Society of America Cordilleran Section Meeting, Corvallis, OR.

Anderson, J. K., and S. M. Wondzell. 2002. Stream geomorphology, bed topography, and implications for patterns in hyporheic exchange flow. North American Benthological Society Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA.

S. M. Wondzell, and T. Kasahara. 2002. Influence of channel morphology on hyporheic zones in mountain streams. North American Benthological Society Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA.

Gooseff, MN, R Haggerty, J LaNier, JK Anderson, SM Wondzell. 2002. Investigating stream longitudinal geomorphic variability and hyporheic exchange residence time distribution using a groundwater flow model. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA.

Wondzell, S. M., and R. Haggerty. 2002. Evaluating the importance of the hyporehic zone throughout a 5th-order mountain stream network. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA.

Wondzell, S. M., R. Haggerty, and M. N. Gooseff. 2003. Hyporheic exchange flows and their residence-time distributions in mountain streams. Geological Society of America Meeting, Seattle, WA.

Wondzell, S. M., J. LaNier, R. Haggerty, and M. N. Gooseff. 2003. Reliability of groundwater flow models of the hyporehic zone of small mountain streams. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Fracisco, CA.

Undergraduate Students:

Graduate Students:
  • Matthew A. Johnson, Geosciences
  • Tamao Kasahara, MS Forest Sciences 2002
  • Justin LaNier, Civil Engineering
  • Justin Anderson, MS Forest Sciences 2003
  • Ken Kokkler, Geosciences
  • Jeff Ninnemann, MS Geosciences current
Post-Doctoral Fellow: Michael Gooseff
Related Links:
  • Andrews LTER web site

  • Current weather at Blue River, OR:

    Click for Blue River, Oregon Forecast
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    NSF logo
    This project is funded through the National Science Foundation's Geosciences Directorate (EAR-9909564).

    This page was created on 1-Dec-2003.
    This page was last updated on 25-Jan-2009.

    Questions? mgooseff@engr.psu.edu