Patterns in stream geomorphology and implications for hyporheic exchange flow Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/m326m3954

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  • Longitudinal water surface profiles from high-gradient mountain streams provide useful indicators of the relative potential for hyporheic exchange flow in stream reaches with varying morphology. The spacing between slope breaks in step-pool and pool-riffle streams provides a geomorphic scaling metric that indicates how the length of average hyporheic flow paths change throughout the river continuum. Twelve stream reaches were randomly selected and surveyed in the Lookout Creek basin at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in the western Cascades Mountains of Oregon. Stream reach morphology was examined for patterns that are expressed over a continuum ranging from headwater to mid-order streams that can be predicted from easily measured drainage basin characteristics. Simple and multiple linear regression models were used to predict changes in lateral complexity in stream reaches, and to predict how the general shape of the water surface profile changes as drainage basin area increases from 0.6 km² to 62.3 km². Patterns in the lateral complexity of stream reaches were associated with the degree of channel confinement in valley segments, and longitudinal patterns in bed configuration were strongly associated with the position of a stream reach within the river continuum. Stream reach longitudinal profiles were evaluated to determine how patterns in slope breaks change throughout the portion of the river continuum represented by the study area. Channel units were defined according to slope categories for flat water, steep water, and step units (FLATs, STEEPs and STEPs). A set of regression models was used to predict how slope break spacing and the general shape of the water surface profile change as drainage basin area increases from 0.6 km² to 62.3 km². Output from these regression equations was tested against independent field data to evaluate model performance. The models generally performed well. Longitudinal transects of piezometers were installed along the thalweg of a second order, and a third order stream reach. Longitudinal profiles in the piezometer transects were surveyed, and piezometers were used to measure hydraulic head in stream beds. Data were used to test a theoretical model that predicts downwelling where stream profiles are convex, and upwelling where stream profiles are concave. Overall, the shape of the water surface profile explained 38% of the variation in the distribution of hydraulic pressure head in the streambed. Results demonstrated the usefulness of quantifying the magnitude of concavities and convexities in stream profiles. A metric for expressing the average water surface concavity (AWSC) is proposed. I demonstrated that this metric could be useful for comparing the potential for hyporheic exchange in stream reaches with varying degrees of stream profile roughness. Results showed a decreasing trend in AWSC as drainage basin area increased. Upwelling and downwelling zones were identified in piezometer transects, and their longitudinal lengths were measured. The lengths of downwelling zones were compared to the spacing between slope breaks in the water surface profile. Average lengths of downwelling zones and FLAT channel slope units increased with increasing basin area at a similar rate, indicating that slope break spacing was a useful indicator for average downwelling zone length. My results demonstrate that patterns in stream morphology are useful for predicting patterns in hyporheic exchange flow throughout the river continuum. I suggest that the potential for gravity driven exchange flow decreases along the river continuum as AWSC decreases. I also suggest that the frequency of hydrologic exchange between the stream and the hyporheic zone decreases, and that the average length of hyporheic flow paths increase, across the river continuum.
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