The role of headwater wetlands in altering stream flow and chemistry in a Maine, USA catchment
Morley, Terry R.
Reeve, Andrew S.
Calhoun, Aram J. K.
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Morley, T. R., Reeve, A. S. and Calhoun, A. J.K. (2011), The Role of Headwater Wetlands in Altering Streamflow and Chemistry in a Maine, USA Catchment1. JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 47: 337–349. doi:10.1111/j.1752-1688.2010.00519.x
Headwater wetlands, including hillside seeps, may contribute to downstream systems disproportionately to their relatively small size. We quantified the hydrology and chemistry of headwater wetlands in a central Maine, USA, catchment from 2003 to 2005 to determine their role in maintaining headwater streamflow and in affecting stream chemistry. A few of these headwater wetlands, commonly referred to as seeps, were characterized by relatively high groundwater discharge. During summer base flow, seeps were the primary source of surface water to the stream, contributing between 40 and 80% of stream water. Comparisons of groundwater and surface water dominant ion chemistry revealed only slight differences at the bedrock interface; however, significant changes occurred at the shallow groundwater-surface water interface where we found decreases in total and individual cation concentrations with decreasing depth. Seep outflows significantly increased total cation and calcium concentrations in streams. Outflows at two seeps produced relatively high nitrate concentrations (88 ± 15 and 93 ± 15 μg/l respectively), yet did not correspond to higher nitrate in stream water below seep outflows (2 ± 1 μg/l). We demonstrate that small wetlands (< 1,335 m2) can contribute to headwater stream processes by linking groundwater and surface-water systems, increasing the duration and magnitude of stream discharge, and by affecting stream chemistry, particularly during periods of base flow.