skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on June 16, 2023

Title: Alternative stable states and hydrological regime shifts in a large intermittent river
Abstract Non-perennial rivers and streams make up over half the global river network and are becoming more widespread. Transitions from perennial to non-perennial flow are a threshold-type change that can lead to alternative stable states in aquatic ecosystems, but it is unknown whether streamflow itself is stable in either wet (flowing) or dry (no-flow) conditions. Here, we investigated drivers and feedbacks associated with regime shifts between wet and dry conditions in an intermittent reach of the Arkansas River (USA) over the past 23 years. Multiple lines of evidence suggested that these regimes represent alternative stable states, including (a) significant jumps in discharge time series that were not accompanied by jumps in flow drivers such as precipitation and groundwater pumping; (b) a multi-modal state distribution with 92% of months experiencing no-flow conditions for <10% or >90% of days, despite unimodal distributions of precipitation and pumping; and (c) a hysteretic relationship between climate and flow state. Groundwater levels appear to be the primary control over the hydrological regime, as groundwater levels in the alluvial aquifer were higher than the stream stage during wet regimes and lower than the streambed during dry regimes. Groundwater level variation, in turn, was driven by processes occurring more » at both the regional scale (surface water inflows from upstream, groundwater pumping) and the reach scale (stream–aquifer exchange, diffuse recharge through the soil column). Historical regime shifts were associated with diverse pressures including network disconnection caused by upstream water use, increased flow stability potentially associated with reservoir operations, and anomalous wet and dry climate conditions. In sum, stabilizing feedbacks among upstream inflows, stream–aquifer interactions, climate, vegetation, and pumping appear to create alternative wet and dry stable states at this site. These stabilizing feedbacks suggest that widespread observed shifts from perennial to non-perennial flow will be difficult to reverse. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
2207232
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10335517
Journal Name:
Environmental Research Letters
Volume:
17
Issue:
7
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
074005
ISSN:
1748-9326
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Assessing impacts on coupled food-water systems that may emerge from water policies, changes in economic drivers and crop productivity requires an understanding of dominant uncertainties. This paper assesses how a candidate groundwater pumping restriction and crop prices, crop yields, surface water price, electricity price, and parametric uncertainties shape economic and groundwater performance metrics from a coupled hydro-economic model (HEM) through a diagnostic global sensitivity analysis (GSA). The HEM used in this study integrates a groundwater depth response, modeled by an Artificial Neural Network (ANN), into a calibrated Positive Mathematical Programming (PMP) agricultural production model. Results show that in addition to a groundwater pumping restriction, performance metrics are highly sensitive to prices and yields of perennial tree crops. These sensitivities become salient during dry years when there is a higher reliance on groundwater. Furthermore, results indicate that performing a GSA for two different water baseline conditions used to calibrate the production model, dry and wet, result in different sensitivity indices magnitudes and factor prioritization. Diagnostic GSA results are used to understand key factors that affect the performance of a groundwater pumping restriction policy. This research is applied to the Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Water Storage District located in Kern County, California, regionmore »reliant on groundwater and vulnerable to surface water shortages.

    « less
  2. Semrau, Jeremy D. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are opportunistic pathogens that cause chronic pulmonary disease (PD). NTM infections are thought to be acquired from the environment; however, the basal environmental factors that drive and sustain NTM prevalence are not well understood. The highest prevalence of NTM PD cases in the United States is reported from Hawai’i, which is unique in its climate and soil composition, providing an opportunity to investigate the environmental drivers of NTM prevalence. We used microbiological sampling and spatial logistic regression complemented with fine-scale soil mineralogy to model the probability of NTM presence across the natural landscape of Hawai’i. Over 7 years, we collected and microbiologically cultured 771 samples from 422 geographic sites in natural areas across the Hawaiian Islands for the presence of NTM. NTM were detected in 210 of these samples (27%), with Mycobacterium abscessus being the most frequently isolated species. The probability of NTM presence was highest in expansive soils (those that swell with water) with a high water balance (>1-m difference between rainfall and evapotranspiration) and rich in Fe-oxides/hydroxides. We observed a positive association between NTM presence and iron in wet soils, supporting past studies, but no such association in dry soils. High soil-water balance maymore »facilitate underground movement of NTM into the aquifer system, potentially compounded by expansive capabilities allowing crack formation under drought conditions, representing further possible avenues for aquifer infiltration. These results suggest both precipitation and soil properties are mechanisms by which surface NTM may reach the human water supply. IMPORTANCE Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are ubiquitous in the environment, being found commonly in soils and natural bodies of freshwater. However, little is known about the environmental niches of NTM and how they relate to NTM prevalence in homes and other human-dominated areas. To characterize NTM environmental associations, we collected and cultured 771 samples from 422 geographic sites in natural areas across Hawai’i, the U.S. state with the highest prevalence of NTM pulmonary disease. We show that the environmental niches of NTM are most associated with highly expansive, moist soils containing high levels of iron oxides/hydroxides. Understanding the factors associated with NTM presence in the natural environment will be crucial for identifying potential mechanisms and risk factors associated with NTM infiltration into water supplies, which are ultimately piped into homes where most exposure risk is thought to occur.« less
  3. Abstract. Groundwater table dynamics extensively modify the volume of the hyporheic zoneand the rate of hyporheic exchange processes. Understanding the effects ofdaily groundwater table fluctuations on the tightly coupled flow and heattransport within hyporheic zones is crucial for water resourcesmanagement. With this aim in mind, a physically based model is used to explorehyporheic responses to varying groundwater table fluctuationscenarios. The effects of different timing and amplitude of groundwater tabledaily drawdowns under gaining and losing conditions are explored in hyporheiczones influenced by natural flood events and diel river temperaturefluctuations. We find that both diel river temperature fluctuations and dailygroundwater table drawdowns play important roles in determining thespatiotemporal variability of hyporheic exchange rates, temperature ofexfiltrating hyporheic fluxes, mean residence times, and hyporheicdenitrification potentials. Groundwater table dynamics present substantiallydistinct impacts on hyporheic exchange under gaining or losing conditions. Thetiming of groundwater table drawdown has a direct influence on hyporheicexchange rates and hyporheic buffering capacity on thermaldisturbances. Consequently, the selection of aquifer pumping regimes hassignificant impacts on the dispersal of pollutants in the aquifer and thermalheterogeneity in the sediment.
  4. Abstract Non-perennial streams are widespread, critical to ecosystems and society, and the subject of ongoing policy debate. Prior large-scale research on stream intermittency has been based on long-term averages, generally using annually aggregated data to characterize a highly variable process. As a result, it is not well understood if, how, or why the hydrology of non-perennial streams is changing. Here, we investigate trends and drivers of three intermittency signatures that describe the duration, timing, and dry-down period of stream intermittency across the continental United States (CONUS). Half of gages exhibited a significant trend through time in at least one of the three intermittency signatures, and changes in no-flow duration were most pervasive (41% of gages). Changes in intermittency were substantial for many streams, and 7% of gages exhibited changes in annual no-flow duration exceeding 100 days during the study period. Distinct regional patterns of change were evident, with widespread drying in southern CONUS and wetting in northern CONUS. These patterns are correlated with changes in aridity, though drivers of spatiotemporal variability were diverse across the three intermittency signatures. While the no-flow timing and duration were strongly related to climate, dry-down period was most strongly related to watershed land use andmore »physiography. Our results indicate that non-perennial conditions are increasing in prevalence over much of CONUS and binary classifications of ‘perennial’ and ‘non-perennial’ are not an accurate reflection of this change. Water management and policy should reflect the changing nature and diverse drivers of changing intermittency both today and in the future.« less
  5. Since the Industrial Revolution began approximately 200 years ago, global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration ([CO2]) has increased from 270 to 401 µL L−1, and average global temperatures have risen by 0.85°C, with the most pronounced effects occurring near the poles (IPCC, 2013). In addition, the last 30 years were the warmest decades in 1,400 years (PAGES 2k Consortium, 2013). By the end of this century, [CO2] is expected to reach at least 700 µL L−1, and global temperatures are projected to rise by 4°C or more based on greenhouse gas scenarios (IPCC, 2013). Precipitation regimes also are expected to shift on a regional scale as the hydrologic cycle intensifies, resulting in greater extremes in dry versus wet conditions (Medvigy and Beaulieu, 2012). Such changes already are having profound impacts on the physiological functioning of plants that scale up to influence interactions between plants and other organisms and ecosystems as a whole (Fig. 1). Shifts in climate also may alter selective pressures on plants and, therefore, have the potential to influence evolutionary processes. In some cases, evolutionary responses can occur as rapidly as only a few generations (Ward et al., 2000; Franks et al., 2007; Lau and Lennon, 2012), but theremore »is still much to learn in this area, as pointed out by Franks et al. (2014). Such responses have the potential to alter ecological processes, including species interactions, via ecoevolutionary feedbacks (Shefferson and Salguero-Gómez, 2015). In this review, we discuss microevolutionary and macroevolutionary processes that can shape plant responses to climate change as well as direct physiological responses to climate change during the recent geologic past as recorded in the fossil record. We also present work that documents how plant physiological and evolutionary responses influence interactions with other organisms as an example of how climate change effects on plants can scale to influence higher order processes within ecosystems. Thus, this review combines findings in plant physiological ecology and evolutionary biology for a comprehensive view of plant responses to climate change, both past and present.« less