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  1. Abstract

    Solute transit or travel time distributions (TTDs) in catchments are relevant to both hydrochemical response and inference of hydrologic mechanisms. Long‐tailed TTDs and fractal scaling behavior of stream concentration power spectra (∼1/frequency, or 1/frequency to a power <2) are widely observed in catchment studies. In several catchments, a significant fraction of streamflow is derived from groundwater in shallow fractured bedrock, where matrix diffusion significantly influences solute transport. I present frequency and time domain theoretical analyses of solute transport to quantify the influence of matrix diffusion on fractal scaling and long‐tailed TTDs. The theoretical concentration power spectra exhibit fractal scaling, and the corresponding TTDs resemble a gamma distribution. The tails of the TTDs are influenced by accessible matrix width, exhibiting a sustained power‐law (rather than exponential) decline for large matrix widths. Application to an experimental catchment shows that theoretical spectra match previously reported power spectral estimates derived from concentration measurements.

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  2. Abstract

    The hydrologic dynamics and geomorphic evolution of watersheds are intimately coupled—runoff generation and water storage are controlled by topography and properties of the surface and subsurface, while also affecting the evolution of those properties over geologic time. However, the large disparity between their timescales has made it difficult to examine interdependent controls on emergent hydrogeomorphic properties, such as hillslope length, drainage density, and extent of surface saturation. In this study, we develop a new model coupling hydrology and landscape evolution to explore how runoff generation affects long‐term catchment evolution, and analyze numerical results using a nondimensional scaling framework. We focus on hydrologic processes dominating in humid climates where storm runoff primarily arises from shallow subsurface flow and from precipitation on saturated areas. The model solves hydraulic groundwater equations to predict the water‐table elevation given prescribed, constant groundwater recharge. Water in excess of the subsurface capacity for transport becomes overland flow, which generates shear stress on the surface and may detach and transport sediment. This affects the landscape form that in turn affects runoff generation. We show that (a) four dimensionless parameters describe the possible steady state landscapes that coevolve under steady recharge; (b) hillslope length increases with increasing transmissivity relative to the recharge rate; (c) three topographic metrics—steepness index, Laplacian curvature, and topographic index—together provide a basis for interpreting landscapes that have coevolved with runoff generated via shallow subsurface flow. Finally we discuss the possibilities and limitations for quantitative comparisons between the model results and real landscapes.

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  3. Abstract

    Weathering processes weaken and break apart rock, freeing nutrients and enhancing permeability through the subsurface. To better understand these processes, it is useful to constrain physical properties of materials derived from weathering within the critical zone. Foliated rocks exhibit permeability, strength and seismic anisotropy–the former two bear hydrological and geomorphological consequences while the latter is geophysically quantifiable. Each of these types of anisotropy are related to rock fabric (fractures and foliation); thus, characterizing weathering‐dependent changes in rock fabric with depth may have a range of implications (e.g., landslide susceptibility, groundwater modeling, and landscape evolution). To better understand how weathering effects rock fabric, we quantify seismic anisotropy in saprolite and weathered bedrock within two catchments underlain by the Precambrian Loch Raven schist, located in Oregon Ridge Park, MD. Using circular geophone arrays and perpendicular seismic refraction profiles, anisotropy versus depth functions are created for material 0–25 m below ground surface (bgs). We find that anisotropy is relatively low (0%–15%) in the deepest material sampled (12–25 m bgs) but becomes more pronounced (29%–33%) at depths corresponding with saprolite and highly weathered bedrock (5–12 m bgs). At shallow soil depths (0–5 m bgs), material is seismically isotropic, indicating that mixing processes have destroyed parent fabric. Therefore, in situ weathering and anisotropy appear to be correlated, suggesting that in‐place weathering amplifies the intrinsic anisotropy of bedrock.

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  4. Fractures in Earth's critical zone influence groundwater flow and storage and promote chemical weathering. Fractured materials are difficult to characterize on large spatial scales because they contain fractures that span a range of sizes, have complex spatial distributions, and are often inaccessible. Therefore, geophysical characterizations of the critical zone depend on the scale of measurements and on the response of the medium to impulses at that scale. Using P-wave velocities collected at two scales, we show that seismic velocities in the fractured bedrock layer of the critical zone are scale-dependent. The smaller-scale velocities, derived from sonic logs with a dominant wavelength of ~0.3 m, show substantial vertical and lateral heterogeneity in the fractured rock, with sonic velocities varying by 2,000 m/s over short lateral distances (~20 m), indicating strong spatial variations in fracture density. In contrast, the larger-scale velocities, derived from seismic refraction surveys with a dominant wavelength of ~50 m, are notably slower than the sonic velocities (a difference of ~3,000 m/s) and lack lateral heterogeneity. We show that this discrepancy is a consequence of contrasting measurement scales between the two methods; in other words, the contrast is not an artifact but rather information—the signature of a fractured medium (weathered/fractured bedrock) when probed at vastly different scales. We explore the sample volumes of each measurement and show that surface refraction velocities provide reliable estimates of critical zone thickness but are relatively insensitive to lateral changes in fracture density at scales of a few tens of meters. At depth, converging refraction and sonic velocities likely indicate the top of unweathered bedrock, indicative of material with similar fracture density across scales. 
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  5. Landscapes are frequently delineated by nested watersheds and river networks ranked via stream orders. Landscapes have only recently been delineated by their interfluves and ridge networks, and ordered based on their ridge connectivity. There are, however, few studies that have quantitatively investigated the connections between interfluve networks and landscape morphology and environmental processes. Here, we ordered hillsheds using methods complementary to traditional watersheds, via a hierarchical ordering of interfluves, and we defined hillsheds to be landscape surfaces from which soil is shed by soil creep or any type of hillslope transport. With this approach, we demonstrated that hillsheds are most useful for analyses of landscape structure and processes. We ordered interfluve networks at the Calhoun Critical Zone Observatory (CZO), a North American Piedmont landscape, and demonstrated how interfluve networks and associated hillsheds are related to landscape geomorphology and processes of land management and land-use history, accelerated agricultural gully erosion, and bedrock weathering depth (i.e., regolith depth). Interfluve networks were ordered with an approach directly analogous to that first proposed for ordering streams and rivers by Robert Horton in the GSA Bulletin in 1945. At the Calhoun CZO, low-order hillsheds are numerous and dominate most of the observatory’s ∼190 km2 area. Low-order hillsheds are relatively narrow with small individual areas, they have relatively steep slopes with high curvature, and they are relatively low in elevation. In contrast, high-order hillsheds are few, large in individual area, and relatively level at high elevation. Cultivation was historically abandoned by farmers on severely eroding low-order hillsheds, and in fact agriculture continues today only on high-order hillsheds. Low-order hillsheds have an order of magnitude greater intensity of gullying across the Calhoun CZO landscape than high-order hillsheds. In addition, although modeled regolith depth appears to be similar across hillshed orders on average, both maximum modeled regolith depth and spatial depth variability decrease as hillshed order increases. Land management, geomorphology, pedology, and studies of land-use change can benefit from this new approach pairing landscape structure and analyses. 
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