Transient storage and downstream solute transport in nested stream reaches affected by beaver dams

Li Jin, Donald I. Siegel, Laura K. Lautz, Martin H. Otz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Transient storage constitutes a key element in the hydrologic cycle of watersheds. Both in-channel slow moving water (dead zones) and hyporheic zones can contribute to transient storage, which retains water and solutes, increases residence time and influences solute transport in streams. Beaver dams and other in-stream obstructions throughout low-order streams attenuate streamflow and provide dead zone storage in pools. In this article, we report the results of four tracer tests in nested stream reaches in Cherry Creek (Wyoming, USA) covering ~2.5 km of stream length to explore how the degree of beaver dam obstructions and their impoundments influence water transient storage and downstream solute transport in low-order streams in the Rocky Mountain region of the American West. Travel-time parameters for the tracer tests increased linearly with beaver dam number (N) and pond size (V). Linear regression of the travel time to the peak concentration (Tp), the leading (Tl) and tailing edge (Tt) of the dye cloud and the duration of the dye cloud (Td) versus N and V were all significant (R2 = 0.99). Slopes of the linear regressions of Tt versus N and V, were three times larger than those for Tl, suggesting that longer residence times may be caused, in part, by transient storage in the stream system. One-dimensional transport with inflow and storage (OTIS) modelled cross-sectional area of transient storage zone (As) and dispersion coefficients (D) increased linearly with N and V and reach length. Two transient storage metrics, Fmean and Fmed200, also showed a general increase with N and V, although the relationship was not as strong. This suggests that in-channel dead zones associated with beaver dams provide opportunities for generating transient water storage. The linear relationship between dispersion coefficient and reach length suggests the dispersion process might be analogous to the hydrodynamic dispersion in groundwater settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2438-2449
Number of pages12
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number17
StatePublished - Aug 15 2009


  • Beaver dams
  • Tracer test
  • Transient storage
  • Travel time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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