Simulation of aquifer-peatland-river interactions under climate change

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Wetlands play an important role in preventing extreme low flows in rivers and groundwater level drawdowns during drought periods. This hydrological function could become increasingly important under a warmer climate. Links between peatlands, aquifers, and rivers remain inadequately understood. The objective of this study was to evaluate the hydrologic functions of the Lanoraie peatland complex in southern Quebec, Canada, under different climate conditions. This peatland complex has developed in the beds of former fluvial channels during the final stages of the last deglaciation. The peatland covers a surface area of ∼76 km2 and feeds five rivers. Numerical simulations were performed using a steady-state groundwater flow model. Results show that the peatland contributes on average to 77% of the mean annual river base flow. The peatland receives 52% of its water from the aquifer. Reduced recharge scenarios (−20 and −50% of current conditions) were used as a surrogate of climate change. With these scenarios, the simulated mean head decreases by 0.6 and 1.6 m in the sand. The mean river base flow decreases by 16 and 41% with the two scenarios. These results strongly underline the importance of aquifer-peatland-river interactions at the regional scale. They also point to the necessity of considering the entire hydrosystem in conservation initiatives.

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