The role of riparian vegetation density, channel orientation and water velocity in determining river temperature dynamics

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Abstract

A simulation experiment was used to understand the importance of riparian vegetation density, channel orientation and flow velocity for stream energy budgets and river temperature dynamics. Water temperature and meteorological observations were obtained in addition to hemispherical photographs along a ∼1 km reach of the Girnock Burn, a tributary of the Aberdeenshire Dee, Scotland. Data from nine hemispherical images (representing different uniform canopy density scenarios) were used to parameterise a deterministic net radiation model and simulate radiative fluxes. For each vegetation scenario, the effects of eight channel orientations were investigated by changing the position of north at 45° intervals in each hemispheric image. Simulated radiative fluxes and observed turbulent fluxes drove a high-resolution water temperature model of the reach. Simulations were performed under low and high water velocity scenarios. Both velocity scenarios yielded decreases in mean (≥1.6 °C) and maximum (≥3.0 °C) temperature as canopy density increased. Slow-flowing water resided longer within the reach, which enhanced heat accumulation and dissipation, and drove higher maximum and lower minimum temperatures. Intermediate levels of shade produced highly variable energy flux and water temperature dynamics depending on the channel orientation and thus the time of day when the channel was shaded. We demonstrate that in many reaches relatively sparse but strategically located vegetation could produce substantial reductions in maximum temperature and suggest that these criteria are used to inform future river management.

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Garner, G., Malcolm, I. A., Sadler, J. P., & Hannah, D. M. (2017). The role of riparian vegetation density, channel orientation and water velocity in determining river temperature dynamics. Journal of Hydrology, 553, 471–485. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2017.03.024

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