Turbulent Hyporheic Exchange in Permeable Sediments
Abstract:Solute delivery from the water column into a streambed strongly influences metabolism in rivers. Current hydrological models simplify surface-subsurface (hyporheic) exchange by treating each domain separately, constraining turbulent flows to the water column. Studies have shown, however, that turbulence penetrates into permeable sediments. Evidence is lacking for how this highly coupled flow regime influences hyporheic exchange.
We characterized the dynamics of turbulent exchange between surface and porewaters in a 2.5 m recirculating flume. The channel was packed with 3.8 cm PVC spheres to form a coarse gravel bed, with a total depth of 21 cm. We implanted microsensors onto an array of spheres to measure in situsalt concentrations within the streambed. Water was recirculated in the channel, and concentrated salt solution was continuously injected upstream of the sensor array.
We observed solute exchange increased with free-stream Reynolds number and decreased with depth in the sediment bed. Mass of injected solute remaining in the bed decreased rapidly in all cases, with only 10-30% of mass recovered 50 cm downstream of the injection point at Re = 25,000. We observed high-frequency (1-10 Hz) concentration fluctuations at bed depths of at least 4.75 cm, and sporadic low-frequency fluctuations at depths of 12.5 cm. Spectral analysis revealed increased filtering of high frequencies with depth. We used particle-tracking simulations to fit depth-dependent turbulent diffusion profiles to experimental results. These results demonstrate that free-stream turbulence impacts hyporheic mixing deep into permeable streambeds, and mixing is strongly influenced by the coupled surface-subsurface flow field.