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Groundwater in headwaters: hydrological and ecological significance

By
C. Soulsby
C. Soulsby
Department of Geography, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UF, UK (e-mail: c.soulsby@abdn.ac.uk)
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R. Malcolm
R. Malcolm
Department of Geography, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UF, UK (e-mail: c.soulsby@abdn.ac.uk)
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I. Malcolm
I. Malcolm
Department of Geography, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UF, UK (e-mail: c.soulsby@abdn.ac.uk)
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Published:
January 01, 2000

Abstract

The hydrological and ecological significance of groundwater has generally been under-estimated in headwater catchment studies within the Celtic regions. The paper presents data from headwater catchments in both upland and lowland settings in northern Scotland to address this gap in our understanding. Research in the 10 km2 Allt a’ Mharcaidh catchment in the western Cairngorms has demonstrated that a range of groundwater sources in various drift deposits can account for c. 50% of annual runoff, even in a high altitude headwater stream. Despite the traditional assumption that upland catchments have limited aquifer storage, oxygen isotope studies of groundwater imply mean water residence times of up to five years which indicate a range of groundwater sources in montane environments. Moreover, hydrogeochemical reactions in the saturated zone appear to regulate stream water chemistry at moderate and low flows. In such montane environments, groundwater discharges at springs create unique wetland habitats which often form the source of headwater streams and affect riparian areas. In lowland catchments the hydrological significance of groundwater is equally important. In addition, recent studies in a salmon spawning stream in the Newmills Burn, Aberdeenshire has shown that aquifer-stream interactions in hyporheic zones are crucial in maintaining habitat conditions conducive to the survival of salmonid eggs, and the subsequent population of salmon streams. It is concluded that interdisciplinary studies incorporating hydrogeological investigations are fundamental to a proper understanding of the hydrology and functional ecology of catchment systems in the Celtic regions.

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Contents

Geological Society, London, Special Publications

Groundwater in the Celtic Regions: Studies in Hard Rock and Quaternary Hydrogeology

N. S. Robins
N. S. Robins
British Geological Survey, Wallingford, UK
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B. D. R. Misstear
B. D. R. Misstear
University of Dublin, Trinity College, Ireland
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Geological Society of London
Volume
182
ISBN electronic:
9781862394308
Publication date:
January 01, 2000

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