Hyporheic fluxes influence ecological processes across a continuum of timescales. However, few studies have been able to characterize hyporheic fluxes and residence time distributions (RTDs) over timescales of days to years, during which evapotranspiration (ET) and seasonal flood pulses create unsteady forcing. Here we present a data-driven, particle-tracking piston model that characterizes hyporheic fluxes and RTDs based on measured vertical head differences. We used the model to test the relative influence of ET and seasonal flood pulses in the Everglades (FL, USA), in a manner applicable to other low-energy floodplains or broad, shallow streams. We found that over the multiyear timescale, flood pulses that drive relatively deep (∼1 m) flow paths had the dominant influence on hyporheic fluxes and residence times but that ET effects were discernible at shorter timescales (weeks to months) as a break in RTDs. Cumulative RTDs on either side of the break were generally well represented by lognormal functions, except for when ET was strong and none of the standard distributions applied to the shorter timescale. At the monthly timescale, ET increased hyporheic fluxes by 1–2 orders of magnitude; it also decreased 6 year mean residence times by 53–87%. Long, slow flow paths driven by flood pulses increased 6 year hyporheic fluxes by another 1–2 orders of magnitude, to a level comparable to that induced over the short term by shear flow in streams. Results suggest that models of intermediate-timescale processes should include at least two-storage zones with different RTDs, and that supporting field data collection occur over 3–4 years.
Additional publication details
Dynamic hyporheic exchange at intermediate timescales: testing the relative importance of evapotranspiration and flood pulses