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Title: Natural tracers as tools for upscaling hydrological flow path understanding in two mesoscale Scottish catchments
Author: Rodgers, Paul John
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2004
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Natural geochemical and isotopic tracers were used to assess and model hydrological processes in two mesoscale (>200km2) catchments in the Scottish highlands, the Feshie and Feugh, in order to upscale understanding from the traditional headwater catchment scale (<10km2). Gran alkalinity was used as a geochemical tracer to distinguish acidic, organically enriched soil water from more alkaline groundwater. Spatial variations in alkalinity reflected the influence of different hydrological sources at the sub-catchment and catchment-wide scale, whereas temporal alkalinity variation at different flows over the hydrological year and over shorter event timescales provided information on the influence of hydrological flow paths. The well-defined relationship between alkalinity and flow meant that two-component end member mixing analysis could be used to quantify the influence of these hydrological flow paths and sources over a range of scales and contrasting catchment characteristics. These techniques were then used to examine more specific groundwater-surface water interactions in the River Feshie's extensive braided section. These interactions were seen to exert a significant and dynamic impact on the hydrochemistry of main stem surface flows and as a result, the hydrological and hydroecological functioning of the catchment as a whole. Stable isotope (18O) variations were also employed as a natural tracer to further investigate hydrological flow paths and provide preliminary catchment residence time estimates. These estimates indicated the relative dominance of catchment characteristics over the more general influence of scale in determining the age sources of catchment runoff. This represented one of the first such assessments of stable isotopic tracers for investigating catchment hydrology other than at the headwater scale. The natural tracer approach therefore provided considerable insight into mesoscale catchment hydrological functioning that would not have been feasible through more conventional small-scale hydrometric investigation. This has direct utility for the sustainable management of such catchment systems as well as highlighting the potential for applying such tracer investigations in order to help structure and validate more accurate hydrological models.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available