The hydrochemistry of the hyporheic zone in salmon spawning

Christopher Soulsby, I. Malcolm, A. Youngson

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65 Citations (Scopus)


Hydrochemical changes were monitored in a simulated, sea run salmon redd in a small agricultural stream in northeast Scotland following the 1998-1999 spawning season. Immediately after redd construction, the hydrochemical characteristics of hyporheic water, at depths of 0.1 m and 0.3 m, were very similar to stream water. These apparently well-mixed waters were alkaline, well-oxygenated and enriched in nutrients. In the weeks and months following redd construction, clear and statistically significant differences in the chemistry of stream and hyporheic waters were observed. Typically, hyporheic water had lower concentrations of dissolved oxygen (mean 7.35 mg L-1 at 0.3 m depth) than stream waters (mean = 11.26 mg L-1). Alkalinity, calcium, sulphate and conductivity levels tended to be higher in hyporheic waters, with concentrations increasing with depth. These data implied an increasing influence of groundwater with depth in the hyporheic zone following redd construction; an inference supported by subsequent hydraulic head measurements, which revealed an upwards groundwater flux in the stream bed. However, groundwater-surface water interactions were dynamic and complex: road salts eluted into the stream during periods of snowmelt simulated tracer experiments that implied that a reversed hydraulic gradient may occur at high flows with deeper streamwater penetration and mixing in the hyporheic zone. High flows also result in the mobilization of fine sediments from the stream bed which subsequently infiltrated into spawning gravels. These appear to cause `capping' of redds and probably reduce the hydraulic conductivity of the redd matrix. Infiltrating sediments also contain a small, but probably important organic component, the decomposition of which may contribute to oxygen consumption and nutrient mineralization in the hyporheic zone. Copyright (C) 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-665
Number of pages14
JournalRegulated Rivers
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • groundwater
  • hydrochemistry
  • hydrology
  • hyporheic zone
  • salmonids


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