Biogeochemical and Hydrological Heterogeneity and Emergent Archetypical Catchment Response Patterns

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 4:45 PM
James W Jawitz, University of Florida, Soil and Water Science, Ft Walton Beach, FL, United States, Heather E Gall, Pennsylvania State University Main Campus, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University Park, PA, United States and P Suresh Rao, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, United States
What can stream hydrologic and biogeochemical signals tell us about interactions among spatially heterogeneous hydrological and biogeochemical processes at the catchment-scale? We seek to understand how the spatial structure of solute sources coupled with both stationary and nonstationary hydroclimatic drivers affect observed archetypes of concentration-discharge (C-Q) patterns. These response patterns are the spatially integrated expressions of the spatiotemporal structure of solutes exported from managed catchments, and can provide insight into likely ecological consequences of receiving water bodies (e.g., wetlands, rivers, lakes, and coastal waters). We investigated the following broad questions: (1) How does the spatial correlation between the structure of flow-generating areas and biogeochemical source areas across a catchment evolve under stochastic hydro-climatic forcing? (2) What are the feasible hydrologic and biogeochemical responses that lead to the emergence of archetypical C-Q patterns? and; (3) What implications do these coupled dynamics have for catchment monitoring and implementation of management practices? We categorize the observed temporal signals into three archetypical C-Q patterns: dilution; accretion, and constant concentration. We applied a parsimonious stochastic model of heterogeneous catchments, which act as hydrologic and biogeochemical filters, to examine the relationship between spatial heterogeneity and temporal history of solute export signals. The core concept of the modeling framework is considering the type and degree of spatial correlation between solute source zones and flow generating zones, and activation of different portions of the catchments during rainfall events. Our overarching hypothesis is that each archetype C-Q pattern can be generated by explicitly linking landscape-scale hydrologic responses and spatial distributions of solute source properties within a catchment. We compared observed multidecadal data to simulation results and find that the model simulations reproduce the three major C-Q patterns observed in published data, offering valuable insight into coupled catchment processes. The findings can be used to develop effective catchment management and stream monitoring strategies.