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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry, and Earth Sciences

Department of Ecological Modelling - Prof. Dr. Michael Hauhs

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Frei, S; Lischeid, G; Fleckenstein, JH: Effects of micro-topography on surface-subsurface exchange and runoff generation in a virtual riparian wetland - A modeling study, Advances in Water Resources, 336, 1388-1401 (2010), doi:10.1016/j.advwatres.2010.07.006
In humid upland catchments etlands are often a prominent feature in the vicinity of streams and have potential implications for runoff generation and nutrient export. Wetland surfaces are often haracterized by distinct micro-topography (hollows and hummocks). The effects of such micro-topography on surface–subsurface exchange and runoff generation for a 10 by 20 m synthetic section of a riparian wetland were investigated in a virtual modeling experiment. A reference model with a planar surface was run for comparison. The geostatistically simulated structure of the micro-topography replicates the topography of a peat-forming riparian wetland in a small mountainous catchment in South-East Germany (Lehstenbach). Flow was modeled with the fully-integrated surface–subsurface code HydroGeoSphere. Simulation results showed that the specific structure of the wetland surface resulted in distinct shifts between surface and subsurface flow dominance. Surface depressions filled and started to drain via connected channel networks in a threshold controlled process, when groundwater levels intersected the land surface. These networks expanded and shrunk in a spill and fill mechanism when the shallow water table fluctuated around the mean surface elevation under variable rainfall inputs. The micro-topography efficiently buffered rainfall inputs and produced a hydrograph that was characterized by subsurface flow during most of the year and only temporarily shifted to surface flow dominance (N80% of total discharge) during intense rainstorms. In contrast the hydrograph in the planar reference model was much “flashier” and more controlled by surface runoff. A non-linear, hysteretic relationship between groundwater level and discharge observed at the study site was reproduced with the micro-topography model. Hysteresis was also observed in the relationship between surface water storage and discharge, but over a relatively narrow range of surface water storage values. Therefore it was concluded that surface water storage was a better predictor for the occurrence of surface runoff than groundwater levels.
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