Estimation of Streambed Groundwater Fluxes Associated with Coaster Brook Trout Spawning Habitat

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We hypothesized that the spatial distribution of groundwater inflows through river bottom sediments is a critical factor associated with the distribution of coaster brook trout (a life history variant of Salvelinus fontinalis) spawning redds. An 80-m reach of the Salmon Trout River, in the Huron Mountains of the upper peninsula of Michigan, was selected to test the hypothesis based on long-term documentation of coaster brook trout spawning at this site. A monitoring well system consisting of 22 wells was installed in the riverbed to measure surface and subsurface temperatures over a 13-month period. The array of monitoring wells was positioned to span areas where spawning has and has not been observed. Over 200,000 total temperature measurements were collected from five depths within each monitoring well. Temperatures in the substrate beneath the spawning area were generally less variable than river temperatures, whereas temperatures under the nonspawning area were generally more variable and closely tracked temporal variations in river temperatures. Temperature data were inverted to obtain subsurface groundwater velocities using a numerical approximation of the heat transfer equation. Approximately 45,000 estimates of groundwater velocities were obtained. Estimated groundwater velocities in the spawning area were primarily in the upward direction and were generally greater in magnitude than velocities in the nonspawning area. Both the temperature and velocity results confirm the hypothesis that spawning sites correspond to areas of significant groundwater flux into the river bed. © 2011, The Author(s). Ground Water © 2011, National Ground Water Association.

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Ground Water