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headwater streams

Eric Traub Thesis Defense!

You are invited to attend Eric Traub’s  public MS thesis defense in Geology.

“The Effects of Biogeochemical Sinks on the Mobility of Contaminants in an Area Affected By Acid Mine Drainage, Huff Run, Ohio.”

(Co-Advisors: David Singer and Anne Jefferson)

Monday, Feb. 22, 12:30 pm in McGilvrey Hall, room 339, Kent State University

How low will they go? The response of headwater streams in the Oregon Cascades to the 2015 drought

From a distance, Anne has been watching an incredibly unusual summer play out in the Pacific Northwest, following a winter with far less snow (but more rain) than usual. Folks on the ground in Oregon have been collecting data on the response of the Oregon Cascades streams to “no snow, low flow” conditions. Anne is making minor contributions to the following poster, to be presented in Session No. 291, Geomorphology and Quaternary Geology (Posters) at Booth# 101 on Wednesday, 4 November 2015: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM.

HOW LOW WILL THEY GO? THE RESPONSE OF HEADWATER STREAMS IN THE OREGON CASCADES TO THE 2015 DROUGHT

LEWIS, Sarah L.1, GRANT, Gordon E.2, NOLIN, Anne W.1, HEMPEL, Laura A.1, JEFFERSON, Anne J.3 and SELKER, John S.4, (1)College of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, (2)Pacific Northwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, 3200 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR 97331-8550, (3)Department of Geology, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242, (4)Biological & Ecological Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, sarah.lewis@oregonstate.edu

Larger rivers draining the Oregon Cascades are sourced from headwater systems with two distinct runoff regimes: surface-flow dominated watersheds with flashy hydrographs, rapid baseflow recession, and very low summer flows; and spring-fed systems, with slow-responding hydrographs, long baseflow recession, and summer flow sustained by deep groundwater fed coldwater springs. Our previous research has explored these differences on both the wet west-side and dry east-side of the Cascade crest, as expressed in contrasting discharge and temperature regimes, drainage efficiency, low and peak flow dynamics, and sensitivity to snowpack and climate change scenarios. In 2015, record low winter snowpack combined with an anomalously dry spring resulted in historically low flows across our research sites and throughout Oregon. These extreme meteorological conditions, equivalent to a 4°C warming scenario, offer an exceptional opportunity to witness how these contrasting stream networks might respond to anticipated changes in amount and timing of recharge.
Conceptually, channel network response to decreasing discharge may involve both lateral and longitudinal contraction. Lateral contraction, the decrease of wetted channel width and depth, occurs in both surface-flow and spring-fed streams as flows diminish. Longitudinal contraction may be expressed as (a) a gradual drying of the stream channel and downstream retreat of the channel head, (b) a “jump” of the channel head downstream to the next spring when an upper spring goes dry, or (c) no change in channel head despite diminishing flows. We hypothesize that while individual stream channels may display a combination of these dynamics, surface-flow and spring-fed watersheds will have distinctive and different behaviors. We field test our hypothesis by monitoring channel head locations in 6 watersheds during the low flow recession of 2015, and repeatedly measuring discharge, water quality and hydraulic geometry at a longitudinal array of sites along each surface-flow or spring-fed channel. The resulting data set can be used to explore the fundamental processes by which drainage networks accommodate decreasing flows.

Quantifying the influences of stormwater control measures on urban headwater streamflow

The Watershed Hydrology Lab will be at the Geological Society of America meeting in November in Baltimore. Anne will be giving an invited talk in the Urban Geochemistry session (T32) on Sunday, November 1st at 9 am in BCC room 308. Here’s what she’ll be talking about:

Quantifying the influences of stormwater control measures on urban headwater streamflow

Anne Jefferson1, Colin Bell2, Sara McMillan2, and Sandra Clinton3
1. Department of Geology, Kent State University, 221 McGilvrey Hall, Kent, OH 44242 USA. Phone: 1-330-672-2746 Email: ajeffer9@kent.edu
2. Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA.
3. Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University City Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28223, USA.

Stormwater control measures are designed to mitigate the hydrological consequences of urbanization, but their as-built effectiveness in altering patterns of urban streamflow remains poorly quantified. Stream gaging and water stable isotopes were used to understand the effects of stormwater ponds and wetlands on hydrograph characteristics and water sourcing in four urban headwater streams in Charlotte, North Carolina. At the small watershed scale (0.15-1.5 km2), runoff ratio and peak discharge are more strongly related to impervious area than area treated by stormwater controls. For one stream during 10 events, we used stable isotopes to quantify contributions of retention pond discharge to streamflow, taking advantage of the unique isotope signature of pond outflow. The pond, which drains 25% of the watershed’s impervious area, contributed an average of 10% (0-21%) of the streamflow on the rising limb and 12% (0-19%) of discharge at peak flow. During recession, this pond contributed an average of 32% (11-54%) of the stream’s discharge, reflecting the pond’s design goals of temporarily storing and delaying runoff. The isotopic signature of the pond’s discharge also reveals varying water residence times (hours to weeks) within the structure, which may have implications for nutrient and metal fluxes into the stream. Our results suggest that even when individual stormwater control measures are working as designed, they are insufficient to fully mitigate the effects of urbanization on stream hydrology. They also demonstrate the combination of traditional hydrometric and tracer-based techniques can reveal a nuanced view of stormwater influences on urban streams. Such hydrological nuance will be necessary to develop strong mechanistic understanding of biogeochemical processes in urban streams and watersheds.

AGU Abstract: Dynamic Hydraulic Conductivity, Streambed Sediment, and Biogeochemistry Following Stream Restoration

The Watershed Hydrology Lab will be represented at the AGU Fall Meeting in December in the session on “Groundwater-Surface Water Interactions: Identifying and Integrating Physical, Biological, and Chemical Processes.”

Dynamic Hydraulic Conductivity, Streambed Sediment, and Biogeochemistry Following Stream Restoration

Anne Jefferson, Stuart Baker, and Lauren Kinsman-Costello, Kent State University, Kent, OH, United States

Stream restoration projects strive to improve water quality and degraded habitat, yet restoration projects often fall short of achieving their goals. Hyporheic exchange facilitates biogeochemical interaction which can contribute to positive water quality and habitat, but there are limited data on how restoration affects hyporheic processes. Hyporheic flowpaths can be altered by the processes and products of stream restoration, as well as the transport of fine sediment through the stream bed post-restoration. In two northeastern Ohio headwater streams, variations in hydraulic conductivity and pore water chemistry were monitored following restoration, as measures of hyporheic functioning. A second-order stream restored in August 2013, had a slight decrease in average hydraulic conductivity but an increase in heterogeneity from pre-restoration to four months post-restoration. Data collected 10 and 15 months post-restoration show continued declines in hydraulic conductivity throughout large constructed riffles. These piezometers also indicate dominance of downwelling throughout the riffles with only isolated upwelling locations. Grain size analysis of freeze cores collected in streambed sediments show differences suggesting fluvial transport and sorting have occurred since construction was completed. Pore water sampled from piezometers within the riffles had Mn2+ concentrations ten times higher than surface water, suggesting redox transformations are occurring along hyporheic flowpaths. A first-order stream reach, immediately downstream of a dam, restored in April 2014 had no significant change in average hydraulic conductivity between 1 and 2 months post-restoration, but many individual piezometers had increases of over 100% in high gradient positions or decreases of over 50% in low gradient positions. Changes in hydraulic conductivities in both restored streams are thought to be an adjustments from disturbance to a new dynamic equilibrium influenced by the morphology and sediment regime established by restoration, suggesting these are important processes to consider in the design of such projects.

One of the study streams, 3 months post-restoration.

One of the study streams, 3 months post-restoration.

After the dam comes down: groundwater-stream interactions and water quality effects of restored and unrestored reaches in northeastern Ohio

The Watershed Hydrology lab will be out in force for the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Vancouver in October. For the last few days, we’ve been sharing the abstracts of the work we are presenting there.

AFTER THE DAM COMES DOWN: GROUNDWATER-STREAM INTERACTIONS AND WATER QUALITY EFFECTS OF RESTORED AND UNRESTORED REACHES IN NORTHEASTERN OHIO

BROWN, Krista Marie, Geology, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44240, kbooth@kent.edu and JEFFERSON, Anne J., Department of Geology, Kent State University, 221 McGilvrey Hall, Kent, OH 44240

Over that past decade, dam removals have become increasingly popular, as many dams near the end of their life expectancy. With an anticipated increase of dam removals in coming years, this study aims to develop an understanding of groundwater-stream interactions and water quality in former reservoirs after dam removal. Low head dams were removed in 2009 on Plum Creek and Kelsey Creek, tributaries to the Cuyahoga River. Kelsey Creek reservoir remains unaltered and consists of a stream channel flowing through riparian-wetland environments, while Plum Creek reservoir underwent channel restoration in 2011. At Kelsey Creek, 20 piezometers and 3 wells were installed within the former reservoir. Since October 2013, hydraulic heads have been recorded semi-weekly for aquifer modeling and water samples have been taken in the wells and stream. Water quality is being evaluated with field-measured parameters and ion chromatography. Plum Creek is being used to understand the water quality effects of channel restoration.
At Kelsey Creek, interaction between the stream and shallow groundwater is evident. The stream tends to contribute shallow groundwater flow toward the western side of the site and north, parallel to the stream. The well closest to the stream shows variability in specific conductance, indicating bidirectional groundwater-stream exchange and all wells show rapid response to precipitation events. Hydraulic conductivity calculated using the Hvorslev method ranged 2.84×10-2to 7.38×10-6 m/s and poorly correlate with the bulk sediments in Kelsey Creek.
Despite the wetland and groundwater-stream exchange in the unrestored Kelsey Creek, there is little change in stream water quality within the former reservoir site, similar to the restored Plum Creek site. This suggests that there is little water quality benefit to be gained from stream restoration at dam removal sites. Left unaltered, Kelsey Creek provides flood control and groundwater recharge in wetland areas.

Changes in hyporheic exchange and subsurface processes following stream restoration

The Watershed Hydrology lab will be out in force for the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Vancouver in October. Over the next few days, we’ll be sharing the abstracts of the work we are presenting there.

CHANGES IN HYPORHEIC EXCHANGE AND SUBSURFACE PROCESSES FOLLOWING STREAM RESTORATION

BAKER, Stuart B., Department of Geology, Kent State University, 221 McGilvrey Hall, 325 S. Lincoln St, Kent, OH 44242, sbaker51@kent.edu and JEFFERSON, Anne J., Department of Geology, Kent State University, 221 McGilvrey Hall, Kent, OH 44240
Stream restoration is a billion dollar industry with major goals of improving water quality and degraded habitat, yet restoration often falls short of significant improvements in toward these objectives. At present, there are limited data and understanding of the physical and biogeochemical responses to restoration that constrain the potential for water quality and ecological improvements. Hyporheic exchange, the flow of water into and out of the streambed, is an important stream process that serves a critical role in naturally functioning streams, allowing for stream water to interact with the substrate in various processes. Hyporheic flowpaths can be altered by the transport of fine sediment through the stream bed and are thus susceptible to changes in sediment regime and hydraulics, as well as the changes wrought by construction of a restoration project. The goal of this research is to determine the effect of restoration on hyporheic exchange and associated biogeochemical processes. Preliminary results from Kelsey Creek, OH, a second-order stream restored in August 2013, show a slight decrease in average hydraulic conductivity but an increase in heterogeneity from pre-restoration (geometric mean 8.47×10-5 m/s, range 2.67×10-5-3.05×10-4) to four months post-restoration (geometric mean 4.40×10-5 m/s, range 1.18×10-6-1.19×10-3) to ten months post-restoration (geometric mean 1.41×10-5 m/s, range 1.11×10-6-6.40×10-4) in piezometer nests through large constructed riffle structures. These piezometers also indicate dominance of downwelling throughout riffle structures with only isolated locations of upwelling. A stream in Holden Arboretum, OH restored in April 2014 had no significant change in average hydraulic conductivity between 1 and 2 months post-restoration, but many individual piezometers had increases of over 100% or decreases of over 50%. The greater variation in hydraulic conductivities in both restored streams may be adjustment from disturbance to a new dynamic equilibrium. Transient storage and hyporheic exchange were also measured with resazurin injections pre-restoration and post-restoration, and nutrient injections of NH4Cl will compare the nitrogen uptake rates of the restored reach to an unrestored reach downstream.

The effects of biogeochemical sinks on the mobility of trace metals in an area affected by acid mine drainage, Huff Run, Ohio

The Watershed Hydrology lab will be out in force for the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Vancouver in October. Over the next few days, we’ll be sharing the abstracts of the work we are presenting there.

THE EFFECTS OF BIOGEOCHEMICAL SINKS ON THE MOBILITY OF TRACE METALS IN AN AREA AFFECTED BY ACID MINE DRAINAGE, HUFF RUN, OHIO

TRAUB, Eric L., Department of Geology, Kent State University, 325 S. Lincoln St, 221 McGilvrey Hall, Kent, OH 44240, etraub@kent.edu, JEFFERSON, Anne J., Department of Geology, Kent State University, 221 McGilvrey Hall, Kent, OH 44240, and SINGER, David M., Department of Geology, Kent State University, 228 McGilvrey Hall, Kent, OH 44242
Currently, a watershed restoration group has made progress in remediating surface water contributions to the Huff Run Stream in Mineral City, OH, which is heavily affected by acid mine drainage (AMD) due to historical coal mining. However, the accumulation of AMD sediments on the streambed has prevented the overall ecological health of the area from rebounding. A proposed remediation plan includes dredging, however the efficacy of doing so while preventing further iron buildup and the potential release of trace metals during such an operation is uncertain. The objectives of this research are to examine the effects geochemical sinks can have on the fate and transport of trace metals in order to understand the possible side effects of dredging on the Huff Run. This work aims to build a framework on which to base proposed remediation plans at a wide range of acid-mine drainage impacted sites. To achieve these objectives cores were gathered from the Huff Run and the Farr tributary, where a large amount of AMD is discharged into the Huff Run. These core sediments were analyzed through XRD analysis to understand the abundance and distribution of mineral phases, and ICP analysis to provide information on the amount of trace metals and understand what mineral phases they are associated with. Groundwater piezometers installed in AMD-bearing sediments and streambed sediment were used to quantify changes in trace metals concentrations. The analyses of cores gathered from the stream provide evidence that overtime deposited iron oxides go through thermodynamic transformations into more stable phases, mainly goethite. On-going work aims to determine how mineralogical transformations impact the availability of trace metals. Hydraulic head values gathered the piezometers have shown that hyporheic exchange is occurring, despite the deposition of fine grained sediment and iron oxides from historical mining. Water samples collected from the piezometers have been analyzed for pH and conductivity and show consistent changes as the water is exchanged from the surface and groundwater. On-going work aims to determine how this exchange affects the transport of trace metals.

Assessing hydrologic impacts of street-scale green infrastructure investments for suburban Parma, Ohio

The Watershed Hydrology lab will be out in force for the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Vancouver in October. Over the next few days, we’ll be sharing the abstracts of the work we are presenting there.

ASSESSING HYDROLOGIC IMPACTS OF STREET-SCALE GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENTS FOR SUBURBAN PARMA, OHIO

JARDEN, Kimberly, Department of Geology, Kent State University, 221 McGilvrey Hall, Kent State University, 325 South Lincoln St, Kent, OH 44242, kjarden@kent.edu, JEFFERSON, Anne J., Department of Geology, Kent State University, 221 McGilvrey Hall, Kent, OH 44240, GRIESER, Jenn, Cleveland Metroparks, 2277 W Ridgewood Dr, Parma, OH 44134, and SCHAFER, Derek, West Creek Conservancy, Cleveland, OH 44134
Impervious surfaces in urban environments can lead to greater levels of runoff from storm events and overwhelm storm sewer systems. Disconnecting impervious surfaces from storm water systems and redirecting the flow to decentralized green infrastructure treatments can help lessen the detrimental effects on watersheds. Most research on green infrastructure has focused on the performance of individual elements, whereas this project addresses the question of hydrologic impacts and pollution reduction of street scale investments using green infrastructure best management practices (BMPs), such as front yard rain gardens, street side bioretention, and rain barrels. The West Creek Watershed is a 36 km2 subwatershed of the Cuyahoga River that contains ~35% impervious surface. Before-after-control-impact design pairs two streets with 0.001-0.002 ha. lots and two streets with 0.005-0.0075 ha. lots. Flow meters have been installed to measure total discharge, velocity, and stage pre– and post-BMP construction. Runoff data have been analyzed to determine if peak discharge for storm events has been reduced after installation of BMPs on the street with 0.001-0.002 ha. lots. Initial results show that the peak flows have not been reduced for most storm events on the street with the green infrastructure. However, several larger events show that peak flows have been reduced on the treatment street and need to be further investigated to determine what conditions led to flow reductions from these storms but not other events. Initial results for centroid lag-to-peak, centroid lag, lag-to-peak, and peak lag-to-peak show that lag times have increased on the treatment street. Additional research will include analysis of the total effect of street-scale BMPs on storm hydrograph characteristics including, hydrograph recession behavior and total runoff volume. Water samples are being collected at the end of each street during storm events to evaluate the ability of the BMPs to remove heavy metal pollutants from stormwater runoff. After studying the effect of each treatment street, we will define the level of disconnected impervious surfaces needed in order to reduce peak flows within the West Creek watershed.

Mountaintop Removal Mining

This semester I’m teaching Environmental Earth Science to a fantastic group of students at Kent State. In tomorrow’s class about fossil fuels, we’ll be talking about coal formation, use, and environmental consequences. A big one I think they should be aware of is the practice of mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia. We’ve already talked about it a bit, but I think this video gives some nice visuals, even if the narration veers a bit from overly dramatic to “boys with toys”.

From the Smithsonian:

Several well-respected scientists are working to figure out the impact of mountaintop removal mining on stream ecosystems. The coal companies haven’t exactly lined up to fund their work and provide access to the sites. So what *do* we know about the impacts of mountaintop mining on Appalachian streams and rivers? Here’s just one example, from the abstract of Bernhardt and Palmer (2011):

Southern Appalachian forests are recognized as a biodiversity hot spot of global significance, particularly for endemic aquatic salamanders and mussels. The dominant driver of land-cover and land-use change in this region is surface mining, with an ever-increasing proportion occurring as mountaintop mining with valley fill operations (MTVF). In MTVF, seams of coal are exposed using explosives, and the resulting noncoal overburden is pushed into adjacent valleys to facilitate coal extraction. To date, MTVF throughout the Appalachians have converted 1.1 million hectares of forest to surfacemines and buried more than 2,000 km of stream channel beneath mining overburden. The impacts of these lost forests and buried streams are propagated throughout the river networks of the region as the resulting sediment and chemical pollutants are transmitted downstream. There is, to date, no evidence to suggest that the extensive chemical and hydrologic alterations of streams by MTVF can be offset or reversed by currently required reclamation and mitigation practices.

Here’s an overview of the consequences and some suggested policy recommendations, presented in Science in 2010.

Among the scientists working on the environmental consequences of mountaintop removal, Margaret Palmer has become perhaps the most visible. Here she is on the Colbert Report:

(Note: the content appears to be unavailable tonight. Hopefully it will be made available again soon.)

Finally, here’s an profile of Margaret Palmer and her work on mountaintop removal mining, published earlier this year in Science magazine.

For more information:

Development of hyporheic exchange and nutrient uptake following stream restoration

Next week, the Watershed Hydrology Lab will be well represented at the CUAHSI 2014 Biennial Colloquium. We’ll be presenting four posters, so here come the abstracts…

Development of hyporheic exchange and nutrient uptake following stream restoration

Stuart Baker and Anne Jefferson

Stream restoration is a multi-million dollar industry in Ohio, with major goals of improving water quality and degraded habitat. Yet restoration often falls short of significant improvements in water quality and biodiversity. It is thus important to improve the theory and practice of stream restoration in order to achieve greater benefits per dollar spent, yet there are limited data and understanding of the physical and biogeochemical responses to restoration that constrain the potential for water quality and ecological improvements. Hyporheic exchange, the flow of water into and out of the streambed, is an important stream process that serves critical roles in naturally functioning streams, allowing for stream water to participate with the substrate in various processes. Hyporheic flowpaths can be altered by the transport of fine sediment through the stream bed and are thus susceptible to changes in sediment regime and hydraulics, as well as the changes wrought by construction of a restoration project. The goal of this research is to determine the effectiveness of restoration in enhancing hyporheic flow and associated biogeochemical processes to improve water quality. Preliminary results from Kelsey Creek, OH, a second-order stream restored in August 2013, show a decrease in average hydraulic conductivity but an increase in heterogeneity from pre-restoration (geometric mean 8.47×10-5 m/s, range 1.18×10-6-1.19×10-3) to post-restoration (geometric mean 4.41×10-5 m/s, range 2.67×10-5-3.05×10-4) in piezometer nests through large constructed riffle structures. These piezometers also indicate dominance of downwelling throughout riffle structures with only isolated locations of upwelling. Transient storage and hyporheic exchange will be measured with resazurin injections for comparison between pre-restoration and post-restoration, and nutrient injections of NH4Cl at time points following the restoration will compare the nitrogen uptake rates of the restored reach to an unrestored reach downstream. Additional sites are planned for study to include restoration projects of different ages to examine the development of hyporheic exchange and biogeochemistry after completion of restoration projects.