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Salinity‐induced increase of the hydraulic conductivity in the hyporheic zone of coastal wetlands
- van Dijk, Gijs, Nijp, Jelmer J., Metselaar, Klaas, Lamers, Leon P.M., Smolders, Alfons J.P.
- Hydrological processes 2017 v.31 no.4 pp. 880-890
- climate change, coasts, hydraulic conductivity, methane, methane production, sea level, sediments, subsidence, sulfates, sulfides, surface water, water salinity, wetlands
- In coastal zones globally, salinization is rapidly taking place due to the combined effects of sea level rise, land subsidence, altered hydrology, and climate change. Although increased salinity levels are known to have a great impact on both biogeochemical and hydrological processes in aquatic sediments, only few studies have included both types of processes and their potential interactions. In the present paper, we used a controlled 3‐year experimental mesocosm approach to test salinity induced interactions and discuss mechanisms explaining the observed hydrological changes. Surface water salinity was experimentally increased from 14 to 140 mmol Cl per L (0.9 and 9 PSU) by adding sea salt which increased pore water salinity but also increased sulfate reduction rates, leading to higher sulfide, and lower methane concentrations. By analyzing slug test data with different slug test analysis methods, we were able to show that hydraulic conductivity of the hyporheic zone increased 2.8 times by salinization. Based on our hydrological and biogeochemical measurements, we conclude that the combination of pore dilation and decreased methane production rates were major controls on the observed increase in hydraulic conductivity. The slug test analysis method comparison allowed to conclude that the adjusted Bouwer and Rice method results in the most reliable estimate of the hydraulic conductivity for hyporheic zones. Our work shows that both physical and biogeochemical processes are vital to explain and predict hydrological changes related to the salinization of hyporheic zones in coastal wetlands and provides a robust methodological approach for doing so.