Hyporheic flow and dissolved oxygen distribution in fish nests: the effects of open channel velocity, permeability patterns, and groundwater upwelling

Meinhard Bayani Ramos Cardenas, Aimee E. Ford, Matthew H. Kaufman, Adam Kessler, Perran Cook

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Many fish lay their eggs in nests, or redds, which they construct in sediment. The viability of eggs depends on many factors, particularly their oxygenation. Because dissolved oxygen is typically saturated within the stream channel, the dissolved oxygen distribution within the redd depends on whether or not hyporheic flow and transport occur within the sediment. We conducted a series of flume and numerical flow and age transport modeling experiments with the aim of understanding the effects of salmonid redds on the hyporheic transport of young oxygenated water. Hyporheic flow was visualized directly through dye injections. Dissolved oxygen throughout the fish nest was measured using a planar optode. Experiments were conducted at various open channel flow velocities in order to understand their effect on dissolved oxygen, and computational simulations considered various sediment textures and ambient groundwater upwelling rates to add process-level insight. We found that, as also shown by previous studies, the redd topography induces multiscale hyporheic flow that effectively flushes the egg pocket location with younger presumably oxygenated water; older water upwells and forms anoxic zones. This pattern persists even at the lowest channel flow rates and at small upwelling velocities of older ambient groundwater which splits the multiscale hyporheic flow cells into isolated pockets. Large groundwater upwelling rates can shut down all the hyporheic flushing. The relatively coarse texture of the redd further promotes hyporheic flushing of the redd sediment with oxygenated water. Thus, redd morphology and sediment texture optimally combine to induce hyporheic exchange flow that delivers young oxygenated water to the egg pocket.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Dissolved oxygen
  • Fish nest
  • Groundwater
  • Hyporheic zone
  • Redd
  • Salmon

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