Riparian zone influence on stream water chemistry at different spatial scales: a GIS-based modelling approach, an example for the Dee, NE Scotland

R. P. Smart, Christopher Soulsby, M. S. Cresser, A. Wade, John Andrew Townend, M. F. Nillett, S. Langan

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A geographical information system (GIS-ARC/INFO) was used to collate existing spatial data sets on catchment characteristics to predict stream water quality using simple empirical models. The study, based on the river Dee catchment in NE Scotland, found that geological maps and associated geochemical information provided a suitable framework for predicting chemical parameters associated with acidification sensitivity (including alkalinity and base cation concentrations). In particular, it was found that in relatively undisturbed catchments, the parent material and geochemistry of the riparian zone, when combined with a simple hydrological flow path model, could be used to accurately predict stream water chemistry at a range of flows (Q(95) to > Q(5)) and spatial scales (1-1000 km(2)). This probably reflects the importance of the riparian zone as an area where hydrological inputs to stream systems occur via flow paths in the soil and groundwater zones. Thus, evolution of drainage water chemistry appears to retain the geochemical characteristics of the riparian area as it enters the channel network. In more intensively managed catchments, riparian land use is a further influential factor, which can be incorporated into models to improve predictions for certain base cations. The utility in providing simple hydrochemical models, based on readily available data sets, to assist environmental managers in planning land use in catchment systems is discussed. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-193
Number of pages20
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • riparian
  • spatial scales
  • geochemistry
  • acidification
  • geographical information system
  • modelling catchment characteristics
  • parent material

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