Graduation Year

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Department

Geology

Degree Granting Department

Geology

Major Professor

Mark C. Rains, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Thomas L. Crisman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas L. Crisman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David B. Lewis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Diana C. Roman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark T. Stewart, Ph.D.

Keywords

Hydrologic Connectivity, Hillslope Hydrology, Stream Temperature, Salmonids, Watershed Management

Abstract

For this dissertation I studied groundwater and surface water interactions in the Kenai Lowlands, Alaska. In particular, I examine two important aspects of groundwater and surface water interactions: 1) Groundwater's influence on surface-water temperature; and 2) Groundwater's role in forming hydrologic flow paths that can connect uplands to streamside wetlands and streams. Chapter 2 investigates the controls on stream temperature in salmon-bearing headwater streams in two common hydrogeologic settings: 1) drainage-ways, which are low-gradient streams that flow through broad valleys; and 2) discharge-slopes, which are high gradient streams that flow through narrow valleys. The results from chapter 2 showed significant differences in stream temperatures between the two hydrogeologic settings. Observed stream temperatures were higher in drainage-way sites than in discharge-slope sites, and showed strong correlations as a continuous function with the calculated topographic metric flow-weighted slope. Additionally, modeling results indicated that the potential for groundwater discharge to moderate stream temperature is not equal between the two hydrogeologic settings, with groundwater having a greater moderating effect on stream temperature at the low gradient drainage-way sites. Chapter 3 examines the influence of groundwater on juvenile coho salmon winter habitat along the Anchor River. Two backwater habitats were selected from the larger set of 25 coho overwintering sites from a previous study for an in-depth hydrologic analysis. The results from chapter 3 showed that the type of groundwater discharge (i.e., focused versus diffuse groundwater discharge) can play an important role in determining habitat suitability in these backwater sites. During winter, focused discharge from a local groundwater seep maintained higher surface-water temperatures and higher concentrations of dissolved oxygen compared to the site with more diffuse groundwater discharge. Chapter 4 investigates the linkages along hydrologic flow paths among alder (Alnus spp.) stands, streamside wetlands, and headwater streams. Chapter 4 tested four related hypotheses: 1) groundwater nitrate concentrations are greater along flow paths with alder compared to flow paths without alder; 2) on hillslopes with alder, groundwater nitrate concentrations are highest when alder stands are located near the streamside wetlands at the base of the hillslope; 3) primary production of streamside wetland vegetation is N limited and wetlands are less N limited when alder stands are located nearby along flow paths; and 4) stream reaches at the base of flow paths with alder have higher nitrate concentrations than reaches at the base of flow paths without alder. The results from chapter 4 showed that groundwater nitrate concentrations were highest along flow paths with alder, however no difference was observed between flow paths with alder located near versus alder located further from streamside wetlands. Vegetation had a greater response to N fertilization in streamside wetlands that were connected to flow paths without alder and less when alder stands were near. Finally, higher nitrate concentrations were measured in streams at the base of flow paths with alder. The combined results of this dissertation showed that, in the Kenai Lowlands, groundwater and surface water interactions have a direct influence on the local ecology and that a fundamental understanding of the hydrology can aid in the successful management and protection of this unique and important ecosystem.

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