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Featured article from geoscience journal

Journal of Hydrology, 2012, Issue 246, p. 112-123
Simulation of flow processes in a large scale karst system with an integrated catchment model (Mike She) Identification of relevant parameters influencing spring discharge

In a complex environment such as karst systems, it is difficult to assess the relative contribution of the different components of the system to the hydrological system response, i.e. spring discharge. Not only is the saturated zone highly heterogeneous due to the presence of highly permeable conduits, but also the recharge processes. The latter are composed of rapid recharge components through shafts and solution channels and diffuse matrix infiltration, generating a highly complex, spatially and temporally variable input signal. The presented study reveals the importance of the compartments vegetation, soils, saturated zone and unsaturated zone. Therefore, the entire water cycle in the catchment area Gallusquelle spring (Southwest Germany) is modelled over a period of 10 years using the integrated hydrological modelling system Mike She by DHI (2007). Sensitivity analyses show that a few individual parameters, varied within physically plausible ranges, play an important role in reshaping the recessions and peaks of the recharge functions and consequently the spring discharge. Vegetation parameters especially the Leaf Area Index (LAI) and the root depth as well as empirical parameters in the relationship of Kristensen and Jensen highly influence evapotranspiration, transpiration to evaporation ratios and recharge respectively. In the unsaturated zone, the type of the soil (mainly the hydraulic conductivity at saturation in the water retention and hydraulic retention curves) has an effect on the infiltration/evapotranspiration and recharge functions. Additionally in the unsaturated karst, the saturated moisture content is considered as a highly indicative parameter as it significantly affects the peaks and recessions of the recharge curve. At the level of the saturated zone the hydraulic conductivity of the matrix and highly conductive zone representing the conduit are dominant parameters influencing the spring response. Other intermediate significant parameters appear to influence the characteristics of the spring response yet to a smaller extent, as for instance bypass and the parameters a in the Van Genuchten relation for soil moisture content curves.