An experimental assessment of the influence of bedforms on coupled hyporheic flow and heat transport
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Hyporheic flow influences both biogeochemical cycling in streambeds as well as streambed ecology. Some biogeochemical processes may be temperature dependent; therefore, heat transport associated with hyporheic flow may be an important influence on such cycles. I separately and experimentally assessed the effects of hyporheic flow due to bed topography on thermal dynamics in the sediment using a custom, tilting flume with temperature controls. Diel temperature cycles of 6° C were imposed in the flume and propagation of temperature signals into the sediment was examined for different bed morphologies (plane bed, pool-riffle-pool, and rippled bed), channel flow rates, and sediment grain sizes. Temperature fields in the sediment were monitored using an array of embedded thermistors, and this data was used to identify zones of upwelling and downwelling within the hyporheic zone. Results suggest that bedforms do induce substantially deeper downwelling upstream and downstream of the bedforms, with upwelling near the crest. This in turn leads to substantial advective heat transport and distinct thermal patterns in the sediment. Variation in permeability and channel flow rates further affects the magnitude of this advective transport. These results corroborate existing theoretical models of coupled hyporheic exchange and heat transport under bedforms. Hyporheic flow therefore affects thermal patchiness in sediment, which may in turn exert a control on biogeochemical reaction rates, and form thermal refugia for fauna.