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  1. 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 occurringmore »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
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 16, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 25, 2023
  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
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    Rivers that cease to flow are globally prevalent. Although many epithets have been used for these rivers, a consensus on terminology has not yet been reached. Doing so would facilitate a marked increase in interdisciplinary interest as well as critical need for clear regulations. Here we reviewed literature from Web of Science database searches of 12 epithets to learn (Objective 1—O1) if epithet topics are consistent across Web of Science categories using latent Dirichlet allocation topic modeling. We also analyzed publication rates and topics over time to (O2) assess changes in epithet use. We compiled literature definitions to (O3) identify how epithets have been delineated and, lastly, suggest universal terms and definitions. We found a lack of consensus in epithet use between and among various fields. We also found that epithet usage has changed over time, as research focus has shifted from description to modeling. We conclude that multiple epithets are redundant. We offer specific definitions for three epithets (non-perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral) to guide consensus on epithet use. Limiting the number of epithets used in non-perennial river research can facilitate more effective communication among research fields and provide clear guidelines for writing regulatory documents.
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    Nonperennial rivers are a major—and growing—part of the global river network. New research and science-based policies are needed to ensure the sustainability of these long-overlooked waterways.