Special Issue "Hydrology, Geomorphology, and Ecology of Intermittent Rivers and Streams"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Hydrology and Hydrogeology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (10 December 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Stephanie Kampf
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, 1476 Campus Delivery, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1476, USA
Interests: snowmelt runoff; arid hydrology; post-fire hydrology; intermittent streams; hydrogeography
Dr. Kristin Jaeger
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
US Geological Survey, Washington Water Science Center, 934 Broadway, Suite 300, Tacoma, WA 98402, USA
Interests: streamflow permanence; geomorphology of mountain rivers; headwater streams
Dr. Ken Fritz
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Office of Research and Development, United States Environmental Protection Agency, 26 W. Martin Luther King Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45220, USA
Interests: intermittency; nonperennial streams; headwater; connectivity; organic matter dynamics

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Intermittent and ephemeral streams and rivers are those that do not flow continuously in space and time, making up most of the global stream length. Because of their limited flow, these types of streams have not received as much attention in hydrologic research as larger perennial streams. Nonetheless, ecological research has highlighted the importance of these streams for aquatic habitats, nutrient cycling, and downstream water quality. Policy and legal debates about whether or not these streams should be subject to water quality legislation have also prompted researchers to expand understanding of how these streams function. The aim of this Special Issue is to bring together recent research that advances understanding of the hydrology, geomorphology, and ecology of intermittent rivers and streams. We welcome contributions addressing any one of these topics and disciplines as well as interdisciplinary studies that link physical and biological components of intermittent stream systems. We especially encourage contributions that incorporate links between geomorphology and hydrology. Contributions may address any type of intermittent stream systems, ranging from ephemeral streams that rarely have flow to streams that dry only during extreme droughts. To facilitate cohesion in the Special Issue, all submitted papers should identify the climatic, land cover, soil, geology, drainage area, and topographic characteristics of the stream systems described.

Dr. Stephanie Kampf
Dr. Kristin Jaeger
Dr. Ken Fritz
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • intermittent stream
  • temporary stream
  • ephemeral stream
  • streamflow permanence

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Controls on Streamflow Densities in Semiarid Rocky Mountain Catchments
Water 2021, 13(4), 521; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13040521 - 17 Feb 2021
Viewed by 551
Abstract
Developing accurate stream maps requires both an improved understanding of the drivers of streamflow spatial patterns and field verification. This study examined streamflow locations in three semiarid catchments across an elevation gradient in the Colorado Front Range, USA. The locations of surface flow [...] Read more.
Developing accurate stream maps requires both an improved understanding of the drivers of streamflow spatial patterns and field verification. This study examined streamflow locations in three semiarid catchments across an elevation gradient in the Colorado Front Range, USA. The locations of surface flow throughout each channel network were mapped in the field and used to compute active drainage densities. Field surveys of active flow were compared to National Hydrography Dataset High Resolution (NHD HR) flowlines, digital topographic data, and geologic maps. The length of active flow declined with stream discharge in each of the catchments, with the greatest decline in the driest catchment. Of the tributaries that did not dry completely, 60% had stable flow heads and the remaining tributaries had flow heads that moved downstream with drying. The flow heads were initiated at mean contributing areas of 0.1 km2 at the lowest elevation catchment and 0.5 km2 at the highest elevation catchment, leading to active drainage densities that declined with elevation and snow persistence. The field mapped drainage densities were less than half the drainage densities that were represented using NHD HR. Geologic structures influenced the flow locations, with multiple flow heads initiated along faults and some tributaries following either fault lines or lithologic contacts. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Reconstructing Spatiotemporal Dynamics in Hydrological State Along Intermittent Rivers
Water 2021, 13(4), 493; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13040493 - 14 Feb 2021
Viewed by 657
Abstract
Despite the impact of flow cessation on aquatic ecology, the hydrology of intermittent rivers has been largely overlooked. This has resulted in a lack of monitoring projects, and consequently, datasets spanning a period of sufficient duration to characterise both hydrological extremes. This report [...] Read more.
Despite the impact of flow cessation on aquatic ecology, the hydrology of intermittent rivers has been largely overlooked. This has resulted in a lack of monitoring projects, and consequently, datasets spanning a period of sufficient duration to characterise both hydrological extremes. This report documents an investigation into the potential for statistical modelling to simulate the spatiotemporal dynamics of flowing, ponded and dry hydrological states in an internationally rare hydrological state dataset. The models presented predict unrecorded hydrological state data with performance metrics exceeding 95%, providing insights into the relationship between ponding prevalence and the performance of statistical simulation of this ecologically important intermediate state between drying and flowing conditions. This work demonstrates the potential for hydrological intermittence to be simulated in areas where hydrological state data are often sparse, providing opportunities for quality control and data infilling. This further understanding of the processes driving intermittence will inform future water resource assessments and the influence of climate change on hydrological intermittence. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Formation Patterns of Mediterranean High-Mountain Water-Bodies in Sierra-Nevada, SE Spain
Water 2021, 13(4), 438; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13040438 - 08 Feb 2021
Viewed by 426
Abstract
At present, there is a lack of detailed understanding on how the factors converging on water variables from mountain areas modify the quantity and quality of their watercourses, which are features determining these areas’ hydrological contribution to downstream regions. In order to remedy [...] Read more.
At present, there is a lack of detailed understanding on how the factors converging on water variables from mountain areas modify the quantity and quality of their watercourses, which are features determining these areas’ hydrological contribution to downstream regions. In order to remedy this situation to some extent, we studied the water-bodies of the western sector of the Sierra Nevada massif (Spain). Since thaw is a necessary but not sufficient contributor to the formation of these fragile water-bodies, we carried out field visits to identify their number, size and spatial distribution as well as their different modelling processes. The best-defined water-bodies were the result of glacial processes, such as overdeepening and moraine dams. These water-bodies are the highest in the massif (2918 m mean altitude), the largest and the deepest, making up 72% of the total. Another group is formed by hillside instability phenomena, which are very dynamic and are related to a variety of processes. The resulting water-bodies are irregular and located at lower altitudes (2842 m mean altitude), representing 25% of the total. The third group is the smallest (3%), with one subgroup formed by anthropic causes and another formed from unknown origin. It has recently been found that the Mediterranean and Atlantic watersheds of this massif are somewhat paradoxical in behaviour, since, despite its higher xericity, the Mediterranean watershed generally has higher water contents than the Atlantic. The overall cause of these discrepancies between watersheds is not connected to their formation processes. However, we found that the classification of water volumes by the manners of formation of their water-bodies is not coherent with the associated green fringes because of the anomalous behaviour of the water-bodies formed by moraine dams. This discrepancy is largely due to the passive role of the water retained in this type of water-body as it depends on the characteristics of its hollows. The water-bodies of Sierra Nevada close to the peak line (2918 m mean altitude) are therefore highly dependent on the glacial processes that created the hollows in which they are located. Slope instability created water-bodies mainly located at lower altitudes (2842 m mean altitude), representing tectonic weak zones or accumulation of debris, which are influenced by intense slope dynamics. These water-bodies are therefore more fragile, and their existence is probably more short-lived than that of bodies created under glacial conditions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Classification and Prediction of Natural Streamflow Regimes in Arid Regions of the USA
Water 2021, 13(3), 380; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13030380 - 01 Feb 2021
Viewed by 706
Abstract
Understanding how natural variation in flow regimes influences stream ecosystem structure and function is critical to the development of effective stream management policies. Spatial variation in flow regimes among streams is reasonably well understood for streams in mesic regions, but a more robust [...] Read more.
Understanding how natural variation in flow regimes influences stream ecosystem structure and function is critical to the development of effective stream management policies. Spatial variation in flow regimes among streams is reasonably well understood for streams in mesic regions, but a more robust characterization of flow regimes in arid regions is needed, especially to support biological monitoring and assessment programs. In this paper, we used long-term (41 years) records of mean daily streamflow from 287 stream reaches in the arid and semi-arid western USA to develop and compare several alternative flow-regime classifications. We also evaluated how accurately we could predict the flow-regime classes of ungauged reaches. Over the 41-year record examined (water years 1972–2013), the gauged reaches varied continuously from always having flow > zero to seldom having flow. We predicted ephemeral and perennial reaches with less error than reaches with an intermediate number of zero-flow days or years. We illustrate application of our approach by predicting the flow-regime classes at ungauged reaches in Arizona, USA. Maps based on these predictions were generally consistent with qualitative expectations of how flow regimes vary spatially across Arizona. These results represent a promising step toward more effective assessment and management of streams in arid regions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Land-Cover and Climatic Controls on Water Temperature, Flow Permanence, and Fragmentation of Great Basin Stream Networks
Water 2020, 12(7), 1962; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12071962 - 10 Jul 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1026
Abstract
The seasonal and inter-annual variability of flow presence and water temperature within headwater streams of the Great Basin of the western United States limit the occurrence and distribution of coldwater fish and other aquatic species. To evaluate changes in flow presence and water [...] Read more.
The seasonal and inter-annual variability of flow presence and water temperature within headwater streams of the Great Basin of the western United States limit the occurrence and distribution of coldwater fish and other aquatic species. To evaluate changes in flow presence and water temperature during seasonal dry periods, we developed spatial stream network (SSN) models from remotely sensed land-cover and climatic data that account for autocovariance within stream networks to predict the May to August flow presence and water temperature between 2015 and 2017 in two arid watersheds within the Great Basin: Willow and Whitehorse Creeks in southeastern Oregon and Willow and Rock Creeks in northern Nevada. The inclusion of spatial autocovariance structures improved the predictive performance of the May water temperature model when the stream networks were most connected, but only marginally improved the August water temperature model when the stream networks were most fragmented. As stream network fragmentation increased from the spring to the summer, the SSN models revealed a shift in the scale of processes affecting flow presence and water temperature from watershed-scale processes like snowmelt during high-runoff seasons to local processes like groundwater discharge during sustained seasonal dry periods. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Connectivity of Ephemeral and Intermittent Streams in a Subtropical Atlantic Forest Headwater Catchment
Water 2020, 12(6), 1526; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12061526 - 27 May 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 826
Abstract
Stream network extension and contraction depend on landscape features and the characteristics of precipitation events. Although this dependency is widely recognized, the interaction among overland-flow generation processes, drainage active length, and frequency in temporary streams remains less understood. We studied a forest headwater [...] Read more.
Stream network extension and contraction depend on landscape features and the characteristics of precipitation events. Although this dependency is widely recognized, the interaction among overland-flow generation processes, drainage active length, and frequency in temporary streams remains less understood. We studied a forest headwater catchment with wide variation in soil depth to investigate the runoff generation processes that lead to the occurrence of ephemeral and intermittent flow and connectivity between hillslope and outlet. We used low-cost equipment to monitor the variation in the length of the active drainage network and to measure the water table development. The flow in the channels can develop even under light rainfall conditions, while the connectivity is controlled by antecedent wetness, total precipitation, and active contribution area thresholds. Runoff permanence and fragmentation were related to soil depth variation; flow being usually more disconnected due to deeper water tables in deeper soil locations. Our findings emphasized the impact of soil structure on runoff generation in hillslopes and can be useful in the management of the most active areas and their impact on the quality of available water. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Conservation and Management of Isolated Pools in Temporary Rivers
Water 2020, 12(10), 2870; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12102870 - 15 Oct 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1163
Abstract
Temporary rivers are characterized by shifting habitats between flowing, isolated pools, and dry phases. Despite the fact that temporary rivers are currently receiving increasing attention by researchers and managers, the isolated pools phase has been largely disregarded. However, isolated pools in temporary rivers [...] Read more.
Temporary rivers are characterized by shifting habitats between flowing, isolated pools, and dry phases. Despite the fact that temporary rivers are currently receiving increasing attention by researchers and managers, the isolated pools phase has been largely disregarded. However, isolated pools in temporary rivers are transitional habitats of major ecological relevance as they support aquatic ecosystems during no-flow periods, and can act as refugees for maintaining local and regional freshwater biodiversity. Pool characteristics such as surface water permanence and size, presence of predators, local physicochemical conditions, time since disconnection from the river flow, or distance to other freshwater habitats challenge a comprehensive understanding of the ecology of these habitats, and challenge ecological quality assessments and conservation practices in temporary rivers. In this paper, we aim at providing a characterization of isolated pools from a hydrological, geomorphological, physicochemical, biogeochemical, and biological point of view as a framework to better conceptualize, conserve, and manage these habitats. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Classifying Streamflow Duration: The Scientific Basis and an Operational Framework for Method Development
Water 2020, 12(9), 2545; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12092545 - 11 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1155
Abstract
Streamflow duration is used to differentiate reaches into discrete classes (e.g., perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral) for water resource management. Because the depiction of the extent and flow duration of streams via existing maps, remote sensing, and gauging is constrained, field-based tools are needed [...] Read more.
Streamflow duration is used to differentiate reaches into discrete classes (e.g., perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral) for water resource management. Because the depiction of the extent and flow duration of streams via existing maps, remote sensing, and gauging is constrained, field-based tools are needed for use by practitioners and to validate hydrography and modeling advances. Streamflow Duration Assessment Methods (SDAMs) are rapid, reach-scale indices or models that use physical and biological indicators to predict flow duration class. We review the scientific basis for indicators and present conceptual and operational frameworks for SDAM development. Indicators can be responses to or controls of flow duration. Aquatic and terrestrial responses can be integrated into SDAMs, reflecting concurrent increases and decreases along the flow duration gradient. The conceptual framework for data-driven SDAM development shows interrelationships among the key components: study reaches, hydrologic data, and indicators. We present a generalized operational framework for SDAM development that integrates the data-driven components through five process steps: preparation, data collection, data analysis, evaluation, and implementation. We highlight priorities for the advancement of SDAMs, including expansion of gauging of nonperennial reaches, use of citizen science data, adjusting for stressor gradients, and statistical and monitoring advances to improve indicator effectiveness. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperReview
What’s in a Name? Patterns, Trends, and Suggestions for Defining Non-Perennial Rivers and Streams
Water 2020, 12(7), 1980; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12071980 - 13 Jul 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1982
Abstract
Rivers that cease to flow are globally prevalent. Although many epithets have been used for these rivers, a consensus on terminology has not yet been reached. Doing so would facilitate a marked increase in interdisciplinary interest as well as critical need for clear [...] Read more.
Rivers that cease to flow are globally prevalent. Although many epithets have been used for these rivers, a consensus on terminology has not yet been reached. Doing so would facilitate a marked increase in interdisciplinary interest as well as critical need for clear regulations. Here we reviewed literature from Web of Science database searches of 12 epithets to learn (Objective 1—O1) if epithet topics are consistent across Web of Science categories using latent Dirichlet allocation topic modeling. We also analyzed publication rates and topics over time to (O2) assess changes in epithet use. We compiled literature definitions to (O3) identify how epithets have been delineated and, lastly, suggest universal terms and definitions. We found a lack of consensus in epithet use between and among various fields. We also found that epithet usage has changed over time, as research focus has shifted from description to modeling. We conclude that multiple epithets are redundant. We offer specific definitions for three epithets (non-perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral) to guide consensus on epithet use. Limiting the number of epithets used in non-perennial river research can facilitate more effective communication among research fields and provide clear guidelines for writing regulatory documents. Full article
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