Residence and travel times of water in headwater catchments, or their smaller spatial units, such as individual hillslopes, represent important descriptors of catchments’ hydrological regime. In this study, travel time distributions and residence times were evaluated for a montane forest hillslope site. A two-dimensional dual-continuum model, previously validated on water flow and oxygen-18 data, was used to simulate the seasonal soil water regime and selected major rainfall–runoff events observed at the hillslope site. The model was subsequently used to generate hillslope breakthrough curves of a fictitious conservative tracer applied at the hillslope surface in the form of the Dirac impulse. The simulated tracer breakthroughs allowed us to estimate the travel time distributions of soil water associated with the episodic subsurface stormflow, deep percolation and transpiration, thus yielding partial travel time distributions for the individual discharge processes. The travel time distributions determined for stormflow were dominated by the lateral component of preferential flow. The stormflow median travel times, calculated for nine selected rainfall–runoff events, varied considerably—ranging from 1 to 17 days. The estimated travel times were significantly affected by the temporal rainfall patterns and antecedent soil moisture distributions. The residence times of soil water, evaluated for three consecutive growing seasons, ranged from 29 to 37 days. The analysis reveals the interplay of soil water storage and discharge processes at the hillslope site of interest. The applied methodology can be used for the evaluation of runoff dynamics at the hillslope and catchment scales as well as for the quantification of biogeochemical transformations of dissolved chemicals.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited