Systematic Analysis of the Effect of Small Scale Permeability Heterogeneity on Hyporheic Exchange Flux and Residence Times

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 4:45 PM
Gerrit Laube, Christian Schmidt and Jan H Fleckenstein, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
The hyporheic zone (HZ) contributes significantly to whole stream biogeochemical cycling. Biogeochemical reactions within the HZ are often transport limited, thus, understanding these reactions requires knowledge about the magnitude of hyporheic fluxes (HF) and the residence time (RT) of these fluxes within the HZ. While the hydraulics of HF are relatively well understood, studies addressing the influence of permeability heterogeneity lack systematic analysis and have even produced contradictory results (e.g. [1] vs. [2]). In order to close this gap, this study uses a statistical numerical approach to elucidate the influence of permeability heterogeneity on HF and RT.

We simulated and evaluated 3750 2D-scenarios of sediment heterogeneity by means of Gaussian random fields with focus on total HF and RT distribution. The scenarios were based on ten realizations of each of all possible combinations of 15 different correlation lengths, 5 dipping angles and 5 permeability variances. Roughly 500 hyporheic stream traces were analyzed per simulation, for a total of almost two million stream traces analyzed for correlations between permeability heterogeneity, HF, and RT.

Total HF and the RT variance positively correlated with permeability variance while the mean RT negatively correlated with permeability variance. In contrast, changes in correlation lengths and dipping angles had little effect on the examined properties RT and HF.

These results provide a possible explanation of the seemingly contradictory conclusions of recent studies, given that the permeability variances in these studies differ by several orders of magnitude.

[1] Bardini, L., Boano, F., Cardenas, M.B, Sawyer, A.H, Revelli, R. and Ridolfi, L. “Small-Scale Permeability Heterogeneity Has Negligible Effects on Nutrient Cycling in Streambeds.” Geophysical Research Letters, 2013. doi:10.1002/grl.50224.

[2] Zhou, Y., Ritzi, R. W., Soltanian, M. R. and Dominic, D. F. “The Influence of Streambed Heterogeneity on Hyporheic Flow in Gravelly Rivers.” Groundwater, 2013. doi:10.1111/gwat.12048.