Hyporheic exchange and biogeochemical reactions are difficult to quantify because of the range in fluid-flow and sediment conditions inherent to streams, wetlands, and nearshore marine ecosystems. Field measurements of biogeochemical reactions in aquatic systems are impeded by the difficulty of measuring hyporheic flow simultaneously with chemical gradients in sediments. Simplified models of hyporheic exchange have been developed using Darcy's law generated by flow and bed topography at the sediment-water interface. However, many modes of transport are potentially involved (molecular diffusion, bioturbation, advection, shear, bed mobility, and turbulence) with even simple models being difficult to apply in complex natural systems characterized by variable sediment sizes and irregular bed geometries. In this study, we synthesize information from published hyporheic exchange investigations to develop a scaling relationship for estimating mass transfer in near-surface sediments across a range in fluid-flow and sediment conditions. Net hyporheic exchange was quantified using an effective diffusion coefficient (De) that integrates all of the various transport processes that occur simultaneously in sediments, and dimensional analysis was used to scale De to shear stress velocity, roughness height, and permeability that describe fluid-flow and sediment characteristics. We demonstrated the value of the derived scaling relationship by using it to quantify dissolved oxygen (DO) uptake rates on the basis of DO profiles in sediments and compared them to independent flux measurements. The results support a broad application of the De scaling relationship for quantifying coupled hyporheic exchange and biogeochemical reaction rates in streams and other aquatic ecosystems characterized by complex fluid-flow and sediment conditions.
Additional publication details
Scaling hyporheic exchange and its influence on biogeochemical reactions in aquatic ecosystems