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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

GIS-based prediction of stream chemistry using landscape composition, wet areas, and hydrological flow pathways

Tiwari, Tejshree; Lidman, Fredrik; Laudon, Hjalmar; Lidberg, William; Agren, Anneli M.

Abstract

Landscape morphology exerts strong, scale-dependent controls on stream hydrology and biogeochemistry in heterogeneous catchments. We applied three descriptors of landscape structure at different spatial scales based on new geographic information system tools to predict variability in stream concentrations for a wide range of solutes (Al, Ba, Be, Ca, Fe, K, Mg, Na, S, Si, Sr, Sc, Co, Cr, Ni, Cu, As, Se, Rb, Y, Cd, Sb, Cs, La, Pb, Th, U, DOC, and Cl) using a linear regression analysis. Results showed that less reactive elements, which can be expected to behave more conservatively in the landscape (e.g., Na, K, Ca, Mg, Cl, and Si), generally were best predicted from the broader-scale description of landscape composition (areal coverage of peat, tills, and sorted sediments). These results highlight the importance of mineral weathering as a source of some elements, which was best captured by landscape-scale descriptors of catchment structure. By contrast, more nonconservative elements (e.g., DOC, Al, Cd, Cs, Co, Th, Y, and U), were best predicted by defining wet areas and/or flow path lengths of different patches in the landscape. This change in the predictive models reflect the importance of peat deposits, such as organic-rich riparian zones and mire ecosystems, which are favorable environments for biogeochemical reactions of more nonconservative elements. As such, using this understanding of landscape influences on stream chemistry can provide improved mitigation strategies and management plans that specifically target source areas, so as to minimize mobilization of undesired elements into streams.

Keywords

boreal streams; water quality; catchments; stream chemistry; digital terrain analysis; geochemical behavior

Published in

Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
2017, Volume: 122, number: 1, pages: 65-79