The Hyporheic Zone: Understanding the Paradigm

A.G. Bobba, B.G. Krishnappan, and P.A. Chambers (Canada)


Streams, Rivers, Flood Plain, Surface water, Ground water, Hyporheic zone, Ecohydrology


The hyporheic zone, the transition region between stream and subsurface water, represents an important interface between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. When subsurface water combines with stream water in this zone, the characteristics of each are blended and new gradients are established, especially for contaminants. Therefore, the hyporheic zone is important in considering the “big ecological picture” as it is the hydrologic continuum connecting subsurface water and stream water. A variety of existing tools can be used to measure, analyze, and predict the physical, chemical, and biological processes that occur within the hyporheic zone. For example, direct measurement of flux of water across this interface delineates regions of downwelling (stream water entering subsurface water) and upwelling (subsurface water emerging into stream water). Based on measured data, mathematical models can be formulated to characterize the interaction of subsurface and stream water. The variability in physical and chemical characteristics between upwelling and downwelling zones is likely to influence the local ecology within the zone. Therefore, a comprehensive study of the hyporheic zone will invariably require expertise from different disciplines including hydraulics, groundwater and ecology.

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