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Spatial variability in specific discharge and streamwater chemistry during low flows: Results from snapshot sampling campaigns in eleven Swiss catchments


Floriancic, Marius G; Fischer, Benjamin M C; Molnar, Peter; Kirchner, James W; van Meerveld, H J (2019). Spatial variability in specific discharge and streamwater chemistry during low flows: Results from snapshot sampling campaigns in eleven Swiss catchments. Hydrological Processes, 33(22):2847-2866.

Abstract

Catchments consist of distinct landforms that affect the storage and release of subsurface water. Certain landforms may be the main contributors to streamflow during extended dry periods, and these may vary for different catchments in a given region. We present a unique dataset from snapshot field campaigns during low‐flow conditions in 11 catchments across Switzerland to illustrate this. The catchments differed in size (10 to 110 km2), varied from predominantly agricultural lowlands to Alpine areas, and covered a range of physical characteristics. During each snapshot campaign, we jointly measured streamflow and collected water samples for the analysis of major ions and stable water isotopes. For every sampling location (basin), we determined several landscape characteristics from national geo‐datasets, including drainage area, elevation, slope, flowpath length, dominant land use, and geological and geomorphological characteristics, such as the lithology and fraction of quaternary deposits. The results demonstrate very large spatial variability in specific low‐flow discharge and water chemistry: Neighboring sampling locations could differ significantly in their specific discharge, isotopic composition, and ion concentrations, indicating that different sources contribute to streamflow during extended dry periods. However, none of the landscape characteristics that we analysed could explain the spatial variability in specific discharge or streamwater chemistry in multiple catchments. This suggests that local features determine the spatial differences in discharge and water chemistry during low‐flow conditions and that this variability cannot be assessed a priori from available geodata and statistical relations to landscape characteristics. The results furthermore suggest that measurements at the catchment outlet during low‐flow conditions do not reflect the heterogeneity of the different source areas in the catchment that contribute to streamflow.

Abstract

Catchments consist of distinct landforms that affect the storage and release of subsurface water. Certain landforms may be the main contributors to streamflow during extended dry periods, and these may vary for different catchments in a given region. We present a unique dataset from snapshot field campaigns during low‐flow conditions in 11 catchments across Switzerland to illustrate this. The catchments differed in size (10 to 110 km2), varied from predominantly agricultural lowlands to Alpine areas, and covered a range of physical characteristics. During each snapshot campaign, we jointly measured streamflow and collected water samples for the analysis of major ions and stable water isotopes. For every sampling location (basin), we determined several landscape characteristics from national geo‐datasets, including drainage area, elevation, slope, flowpath length, dominant land use, and geological and geomorphological characteristics, such as the lithology and fraction of quaternary deposits. The results demonstrate very large spatial variability in specific low‐flow discharge and water chemistry: Neighboring sampling locations could differ significantly in their specific discharge, isotopic composition, and ion concentrations, indicating that different sources contribute to streamflow during extended dry periods. However, none of the landscape characteristics that we analysed could explain the spatial variability in specific discharge or streamwater chemistry in multiple catchments. This suggests that local features determine the spatial differences in discharge and water chemistry during low‐flow conditions and that this variability cannot be assessed a priori from available geodata and statistical relations to landscape characteristics. The results furthermore suggest that measurements at the catchment outlet during low‐flow conditions do not reflect the heterogeneity of the different source areas in the catchment that contribute to streamflow.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Physical Sciences > Water Science and Technology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Water Science and Technology
Language:English
Date:30 October 2019
Deposited On:21 Jan 2021 08:52
Last Modified:22 Jan 2021 21:01
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0885-6087
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.13532

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