Abstract

Located on the southeastern part of the Colorado Plateau, the Zuni Mountains are home to the endangered Zuni Bluehead Sucker (ZBS) (Catostomus discobolus yarrowi). A 4-year study was conducted on a low-flow (<80 cm3/s) hillslope spring and intermittent stream, that are home to one of the three remaining ZBS populations. Seasonal measurements of physical and hydrochemical parameters were used to estimate the contribution of groundwater to the stream and to identify geologic and hydrologic controls for the spring discharge. Seasonal concentrations and standard deviations (s) of Mg2+ were used to determine that the spring water (5.6 mg/L; s = 0.4) and surface water up-gradient from the spring input (10.7 mg/L; s = 11.2) is from different sources. Surface water down-gradient from the spring input maintain ZBS populations and is a mixture of spring water and up-gradient surface water. Mass solution mixing was used to determine spring water contributes up to 99 percent of the down-gradient water during drier seasons. Isotopes (δD, δ18O, 3H) indicate that the spring water has been recharged primarily from snowmelt within the last 70 years, while up-gradient surface water is seasonal runoff from rain and snowmelt. Continuous monitoring of dissolved oxygen (DO) mean concentrations (up-gradient = 1.6 mg/L and down-gradient = 5.7 mg/L) indicated that surface water up-gradient from the spring input are anoxic and unable to support ZBS. Surface water down-gradient from the spring input maintain appropriate DO concentrations due to perennially discharging spring waters re-aerating downstream habitats.

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