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Spectral analysis of continuous redox data reveals geochemical dynamics near the stream–aquifer interface

Wallace, Corey D., Sawyer, Audrey H., Barnes, Rebecca T.
Hydrological processes 2019 v.33 no.3 pp. 405-413
aquifers, base flow, hydrochemistry, microbial activity, redox potential, rivers, solutes, spectral analysis, storms, stream channels, summer, tides, water table, wavelet, winter
Changes in streamflow and water table elevation influence oxidation–reduction (redox) conditions near river–aquifer interfaces, with potentially important consequences for solute fluxes and biogeochemical reaction rates. Although continuous measurements of groundwater chemistry can be arduous, in situ sensors reveal chemistry dynamics across a wide range of timescales. We monitored redox potential in an aquifer adjacent to a tidal river and used spectral and wavelet analyses to link redox responses to hydrologic perturbations within the bed and banks. Storms perturb redox potential within both the bed and banks over timescales of days to weeks. Tides drive semidiurnal oscillations in redox potential within the streambed that are absent in the banks. Wavelet analysis shows that tidal redox oscillations in the bed are greatest during late summer (wavelet magnitude of 5.62 mV) when river stage fluctuations are on the order of 70 cm and microbial activity is relatively high. Tidal redox oscillations diminish during the winter (wavelet magnitude of 2.73 mV) when river stage fluctuations are smaller (on the order of 50 cm) and microbial activity is presumably low. Although traditional geochemical observations are often limited to summer baseflow conditions, in situ redox sensing provides continuous, high‐resolution chemical characterization of the subsurface, revealing transport and reaction processes across spatial and temporal scales in aquifers.