Network Streamwater Chemistry Project

PROJECT TITLE: Multiscale Controls on Streamwater Chemistry

Hubbard Brook stream chemical variability.
Hubbard Brook stream chemical variability.


PROJECT DURATION: 1 January 2011 to present

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Kevin McGuire and Scott Bailey (USFS)

COLLABORATORS: Christian Torgersen (USGS), Gene Likens (Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies), Don Buso (Cary Institute), Winsor Lowe (Montana), JP Gannon (Virginia Tech), Mark Green (Case Western), Denise Burchsted (Keene State), Nobu Ohte (Kyoto)

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHERS: Kyle Corcoran (Western Carolina), Christen Sapnas (Boise State)

PROJECT SUMMARY: Headwater streams are important sources of water for downstream ecosystems and human communities. These streams comprise the vast majority of stream and river length in watersheds and affect regional water quality. However, the spatial variability of natural streamwater chemistry is generally unknown in these headwater regions.  Our study uses an unusually high-resolution spatial dataset from a headwater stream network to explore the spatial structure of chemical patterns in river networks.  Newly developed geostatistical tools are employed to objectively describe spatial patterns of streamwater chemistry within the Hubbard Brook Valley, in central New Hampshire. The approach provides new insights on how flowing water interacts with the surrounding landscape at multiple spatial scales and is influenced by watershed characteristics such as vegetation, soil, and geologic material or by the manner in which the flowing water network itself affects chemical patterns in headwater streams. Application of this method may help to identify factors impairing water quality and to inform strategies for protecting aquatic ecosystems.


Bailey, S.W., McGuire, K.J., Ross, D.S., Green, M.B., & Fraser, O.L., 2019. Mineral weathering and podzolization control acid neutralization and streamwater chemistry gradients in upland glaciated catchments, northeastern USA, Frontiers in Earth Science, 7, 63, doi:10.3389/feart.2019.00063. 

Gannon, J.P., Bailey, S.W., McGuire, K.J., Shanley, J.B., 2015. Flushing of distal hillslopes as an alternative source of stream dissolved organic carbon in a headwater catchment, Water Resources Research, 51:(10): 8114–8128, doi: 10.1002/2015WR016927. 

McGuire, K.J., Torgersen, C.E., Likens, G.E., Buso, D.C., Lowe, W.H., Bailey, S.W. 2014. Network analysis reveals multiscale controls on streamwater chemistry. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(19):7030-7035, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1404820111.

Zimmer, M.A., Bailey, S.W., McGuire, K.J., Bullen, T.D., 2013. Fine scale variations of surface water chemistry in an ephemeral to perennial drainage network. Hydrological Processes, 27(24): 3438-3451, doi:10.1002/hyp.9449.


VT News story

UMT News story

This material on this webpage is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DEB-1114804.  Financial support to G.E. Likens for the collection of data in this project was also provided by the  NSF LTREB program and The A.W. Mellon Foundation.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.