Hyporheic exchange and oxygen consumption under losing and gaining flow conditions

S. Arnon, A. Fox, N. De Falco, F. Boano

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The exchange of water between the surface and subsurface environments plays a crucial role in hydrological, biogeochemical, and ecological processes. The exchange of water is driven by the local morphology of the streambed (hyporheic exchange) and regional forcing of the hydraulic gradient, which results in losing or gaining flow conditions. We measured the effects of losing and gaining flow conditions on hyporheic exchange fluxes by conducting tracer experiments using a novel laboratory flume system (640 cm long and 30 cm wide) under various combinations of overlying velocities and losing/gaining fluxes. Tracer experiments for measuring hyporheic exchange were done using NaCl as conservative tracer, and dye tracer to visualize the active region where water exchange processes occur. Hyporheic exchange fluxes were analyzed based on a new conceptual framework, which relies on a solute mass balance with sink/source terms due to losing/gaining fluxes to evaluate water exchange between surface flow and streambed sediments. This combination of experimental observations and modeling revealed that hyporheic exchange fluxes under losing and gaining flow conditions was similar. Interfacial transport increases proportional to the square of the overlying velocity, and linearly with increasing fluxes of losing and gaining conditions in the sand bed. When the regional hydraulic forcing becomes larger, the hyporheic exchange becomes smaller. Thus, losing and gaining flow conditions becomes the dominant mechanism of water exchange at a certain flux, which depends on the competitive interaction between the overlying velocity in the stream and the losing/gaining fluxes. This type of coupling is expected to regulate nutrient and contaminant transport and microbial activity in streams and rivers. Indeed, we demonstrated using oxygen distribution along the bedform, which was measured using microelectrodes, that the local hydraulic conditions have a strong influent on microbial activity. In the downwelling zone (stoss side of the bedform), oxygen penetration was deep and microbial activity was intensive. In the upwelling zone (lee side of the bedform), oxygen penetration was limited and so the microbial activity was less intensive as compared to the downwelling zones. This type of flow-biogeochemical process coupling has implications for microbial activity and reactive solute transport in streams.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAmerican Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2013
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2013


  • 0470 BIOGEOSCIENCES Nutrients and nutrient cycling
  • 1800 HYDROLOGY
  • 1830 HYDROLOGY Groundwater/surface water interaction


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