Groundwater seepage influences the temperature of streams and rivers by providing a relatively cool input in summer and warm input in winter. Because of this, groundwater seepage can be a determining factor in the provision of suitable water temperatures for aquatic biota. Climate warming affects stream and groundwater temperatures, and changes the thermal characteristics of streams leading to the potential disappearance of habitats. In this study the importance of groundwater for the temperature of two Dutch lowland streams and its possible role in mitigating the effects of climate change was determined by combining field measurements and a modelling experiment. Stream temperature measurements using fibre optic cables (FO-DTS) and sampling of 222 Rn were done to map localized groundwater inflow. Several springs and seepage ‘hot-spots’ were located which buffered the water temperature in summer and winter. A stream temperature model was constructed and calibrated using the FO-DTS-measurements to quantify the energy fluxes acting on stream water. This way, the contribution to the stream thermal budget of direct solar radiation, air temperature and seepage were separated. The model was then used to simulate the effects of changes in shading, groundwater seepage and climate. Shading was shown to be an important control on summer temperature maxima. Groundwater seepage seemed to buffer the effect of climate warming, potentially making groundwater dominated streams more climate robust. Protecting groundwater resources in a changing climate is important for the survival of aquatic species in groundwater-fed systems, as groundwater seepage both sustains flow and buffers temperature extremes.
- Climate change
- Distributed temperature sensing
- Groundwater-surface water interaction
- Stream temperature
- Stream temperature model