OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Beyond the Paired-Catchment Approach: Isotope Tracing to Illuminate Stocks, Flows, Transit Time, and Scaling

V. Cody Hale
Dec-19-2011

This dissertation integrates a process-based hydrological investigation with an ongoing paired-catchment study to better understand how forest harvest impacts catchment function at multiple scales. This is done by addressing fundamental questions related to the stocks, flows and transit times of water. Isotope tracers are used within a top-down catchment intercomparison framework to investigate the role of geology in controlling streamwater mean transit time and their scaling relationships with the surrounding landscape. We found that streams draining catchments with permeable bedrock geology at the Drift Creek watershed in the Oregon Coast Range had longer mean transit times than catchments with poorly permeable bedrock at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in the Oregon Cascades. We also found that differences in permeability contrasts within the subsurface controlled whether mean transit time scaled with indices of catchment topography (for the poorly permeable bedrock) or with catchment area (for the permeable bedrock). We then investigated the process-reasons for the observed differences in mean transit time ranges and scaling behavior using a detailed, bottom-up approach to characterize subsurface water stores and fluxes.

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