The seasonal variation of streamwater chemistry in three forested Mediterranean catchments

Josep Piñol, Anna Ávila, Ferran Rodà

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Abstract

Streamwater chemistry is described for three streams draining undisturbed, evergreen broad-leaved forested catchments on phyllites in NE Spain: two streams with no or negligible flow in summer are located in the Prades massif, and one perennial stream is in the wetter Montseny mountains. Weekly data for a study period of 2-4 years are provided to (1) describe the seasonal variations in streamwater chemistry, (2) analyse the relationship between stream discharge and solute concentrations using a two-component mixing model and (3) search for patterns of temporal variation in stream solute concentrations after discounting the effects of discharge. At Prades, concentrations of all analysed ions, except NO-3, showed marked seasonal variations in stream water, whereas at Montseny only ions related to mineral weathering (HCO-3, Na+, Ca2+ and Mg2+) showed strong seasonality. Ion concentrations were more closely dependent on instantaneous discharge at Montseny than at Prades. The residuals of the relationship between solute concentrations and discharge retained a strong seasonality at Prades, but not at Montseny. These differences are related to the major hydrochemical processes that determine the streamwater chemistry at each site. The same processes are probably operative in the three catchments, but are of varying relative importance. At Montseny, the mixing of waters of different chemical composition seems to be the major process controlling streamwater chemistry, although the soilwater end-member composition predicted by the mixing model applied did not match the measured soilwater chemistry. In the drier Prades catchments, the two major hydrochemical processes determining the seasonal variation of streamwater chemistry are (1) the restart of flow after the summer drought, which flushes out the solutes accumulated during the dry period, and (2) the seasonal changes in groundwater chemistry that result from the interplay of water residence time, temperature and CO2 partial pressure. In Mediterranean catchments with relatively high precipitation, such as Montseny, the seasonal variation in the streamwater chemistry is largely determined by the same processes as at humid-temperate sites, whereas in drier Mediterranean catchments, such as Prades, the major hydrochemical processes are clearly distinct. © 1992.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-141
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Volume140
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1992

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