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Are big basins just the sum of small catchments?

Hydrological Processes

By:
, , and
DOI: 10.1002/hyp.5739

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Abstract

Many challenges remain in extending our understanding of how hydrologic processes within small catchments scale to larger river basins. In this study we examine how low-flow runoff varies as a function of basin scale at 11 catchments, many of which are nested, in the 176 km2 Neversink River watershed in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Topography, vegetation, soil and bedrock structure are similar across this river basin, and previous research has demonstrated the importance of deep groundwater springs for maintaining low-flow stream discharge at small scales in the basin. Therefore, we hypothesized that deep groundwater would contribute an increasing amount to low-flow discharge as basin scale increased, resulting in increased runoff. Instead, we find that, above a critical basin size of 8 to 21 km2, low-flow runoff is similar within the Neversink watershed. These findings are broadly consistent with those of a previous study that examined stream chemistry as a function of basin scale for this watershed. However, we find physical evidence of self-similarity among basins greater than 8 km2, whereas the previous study found gradual changes in stream chemistry among basins greater than 3 km 2. We believe that a better understanding of self-similarity and the subsurface flow processes that affect stream runoff will be attained through simultaneous consideration of both chemical and physical evidence. We also suggest that similar analyses of stream runoff in other basins that represent a range of spatial scales, geomorphologies and climate conditions will further elucidate the issue of scaling of hydrologic processes. Copyright ?? 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Are big basins just the sum of small catchments?
Series title:
Hydrological Processes
DOI:
10.1002/hyp.5739
Volume
18
Issue:
16
Year Published:
2004
Language:
English
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Hydrological Processes
First page:
3195
Last page:
3206
Number of Pages:
12