Hyporheic hot moments: Dissolved oxygen dynamics in the hyporheic zone in response to surface flow perturbations

Matthew H. Kaufman, M. Bayani Cardenas, Jim Buttles, Adam J. Kessler, Perran L.M. Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Dissolved oxygen (DO) is a key environmental variable that drives and feeds back with numerous processes. In the aquatic sediment that makes up the hyporheic zone, DO may exhibit pronounced spatial gradients and complex patterns which control the distribution of a series of redox processes. Yet, little is known regarding the dynamics of hyporheic zone DO, especially under transitional flow regimes. Considering the natural tendency of rivers to be highly responsive to external forcing, these temporal dynamics are potentially just as important and pronounced as the spatial gradients. Here we use laboratory flume experiments and multiphysics flow and reactive transport modeling to investigate surface flow controls on the depth of oxygen penetration in the bed as well as the area of oxygenated sediment. We show that the hyporheic zone DO conditions respond over time scales of hours-to-days when subjected to practically instantaneous surface flow perturbations. Additionally, the flume experiments demonstrate that hyporheic zone DO conditions respond faster to surface flow acceleration than to deceleration. Finally, we found that the morphology of the dissolved oxygen plume front depends on surface flow acceleration or deceleration. This study thus shows that the highly dynamic nature of typical streams and rivers drives equally dynamic redox conditions in the hyporheic zone. Because the redox conditions and their distribution within the hyporheic zone are important from biological, ecological, and contaminant perspectives, this hyporheic redox dynamism has the potential to impact system scale aquatic chemical cycles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6642-6662
Number of pages21
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • dissolved oxygen
  • dynamics
  • hyporheic zone

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