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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 15, issue 3
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 729–742, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-15-729-2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: Restored river corridor dynamics

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 729–742, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-15-729-2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 04 Mar 2011

Research article | 04 Mar 2011

Self-potential investigations of a gravel bar in a restored river corridor

N. Linde1, J. Doetsch2, D. Jougnot1, O. Genoni3, Y. Dürst2, B. J. Minsley4, T. Vogt5, N. Pasquale6, and J. Luster7 N. Linde et al.
  • 1Institute of Geophysics, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 2Institute of Geophysics, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • 3Geothermal Explorers International Ltd, Pratteln, Switzerland
  • 4US Geological Survey, Denver, CO, USA
  • 5Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Dübendorf, Switzerland
  • 6Institute of Environmental Engineering, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • 7Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland

Abstract. Self-potentials (SP) are sensitive to water fluxes and concentration gradients in both saturated and unsaturated geological media, but quantitative interpretations of SP field data may often be hindered by the superposition of different source contributions and time-varying electrode potentials. Self-potential mapping and close to two months of SP monitoring on a gravel bar were performed to investigate the origins of SP signals at a restored river section of the Thur River in northeastern Switzerland. The SP mapping and subsequent inversion of the data indicate that the SP sources are mainly located in the upper few meters in regions of soil cover rather than bare gravel. Wavelet analyses of the time-series indicate a strong, but non-linear influence of water table and water content variations, as well as rainfall intensity on the recorded SP signals. Modeling of the SP response with respect to an increase in the water table elevation and precipitation indicate that the distribution of soil properties in the vadose zone has a very strong influence. We conclude that the observed SP responses on the gravel bar are more complicated than previously proposed semi-empiric relationships between SP signals and hydraulic head or the thickness of the vadose zone. We suggest that future SP monitoring in restored river corridors should either focus on quantifying vadose zone processes by installing vertical profiles of closely spaced SP electrodes or by installing the electrodes within the river to avoid signals arising from vadose zone processes and time-varying electrochemical conditions in the vicinity of the electrodes.

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