Influence of lakes and peatlands on groundwater contribution to Boreal streamflow
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How much groundwater flows to boreal streams depends on the relative contributions from each landscape unit (forested uplands, lakes, and peatlands) within a catchment along with its hydrogeologic setting. Although there is an understanding of the hydrologic processes that regulate groundwater outputs from individual landscape units to their underlying aquifers (both coarse- and fine-textured) in the boreal forest, less understood is how the topography, typology, and topology (i.e. hydrologic connectivity) of the landscape units regulates groundwater flow to streams. Improved understanding of groundwater-stream interactions in the Boreal Plain of Alberta and Saskatchewan is critical as this region is undergoing substantial environmental change from land cover disturbances for energy and forestry industries and climate change. This thesis determines groundwater-stream interactions during the autumn low-flow period in a 97 km2 glacial outwash sub-catchment of White Gull Creek Research Basin, Boreal Ecosystem Research and Modelling Site, Saskatchewan. The catchment (Pine Fen Creek) is comprised of a large (30 km2) valley-bottom peatland, two lakes, and jack pine (Pinus banksiana) uplands. The pine uplands are important areas of annual groundwater recharge for the catchment. Vertical hydraulic gradients (VHGs) show frequent flow reversals between the lakes and sand aquifer, and spatially diverse VHGs between the peatland and sand aquifer. Groundwater flow nets and lateral hydraulic gradients indicate the stream receives groundwater along its length. Isotopic samples of end members corroborate the hydrometric data. Catchment streamflow response during the 2011 low flow period was not simply the addition of net groundwater inputs from each landscape unit. Instead, the large size, valley-bottom position, and short water ‘memory’ of the peatland were the critical factors in regulation of catchment streamflow during low flow periods. Peatland hydrologic function alternated between a source and sink of runoff (surface and subsurface) to the stream, dependent on the position of the water table; a value of 0.15 m below peat surface was the critical functional tipping point. Given the high percentage of peatlands (21%) within the Boreal Plain, incorporating their runoff threshold is required in parameterizing runoff generation in hydrological models, and thus predicting impacts of peatland degradation and forest clearing on streamflow.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
DepartmentGeography and Planning
Committeevan der Kamp, Garth; Spence, Chris; Ireson, Andrew
Copyright DateMarch 2013