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The Winter Environmental Continuum of Two Watersheds

Research Scientist, Department of Civil and Water Engineering, Université Laval, Quebec City, QC G1V 0A6, Canada
Department of Civil and Water Engineering, Université Laval, Quebec City, QC G1V 0A6, Canada
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Kevin B. Strychar
Water 2017, 9(5), 337;
Received: 16 December 2016 / Revised: 24 April 2017 / Accepted: 26 April 2017 / Published: 9 May 2017
PDF [8006 KB, uploaded 9 May 2017]


This paper examines the winter ecosystemic behavior of two distinct watersheds. In cold-temperate regions, the hydrological signal and environmental parameters can fluctuate dramatically over short periods of time, causing major impacts to aquatic habitats. This paper presents the results of the 2011–2012 winter field campaign in streams and rivers near Quebec City, QC, Canada. The objective was to quantify water quantity and quality parameters and their environmental connectivity from headwater creeks above to the larger rivers below over the entire freeze-up, mid-winter and breakup periods with a view toward exploring the watershed continuum. The paper presents how aquatic pulses (water level, discharge, temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen and turbidity, measured at seven sites on an hourly basis along channels of different sizes and orders) evolve through the aquatic environment. Ice conditions and the areal ice coverage were also evaluated (on a daily time step along each instrumented channel). Some findings of the investigation revealed that water temperatures remained well above 0 °C during winter in headwater channels, that dissolved oxygen levels during winter were relatively high, but with severe depletions prior to and during breakup in specific settings, that high conductivity spikes occurred during runoff events, that annual turbidity extremes were measured in the presence of ice and that dynamic ice cover breakup events have the potential to generate direct or indirect mortality among aquatic species and to dislodge the largest rocks in the channel. The authors believe that the environmental impact of a number of winter fluvial processes needs to be further investigated, and the relative significance of the winter period in the annual environmental cycle should be given additional attention. View Full-Text
Keywords: river ice; water quality; watershed; aquatic environment; winter fluvial processes river ice; water quality; watershed; aquatic environment; winter fluvial processes

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Turcotte, B.; Morse, B. The Winter Environmental Continuum of Two Watersheds. Water 2017, 9, 337.

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