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Hydrology of Forested Hillslopes on the Boreal Plain, Alberta, Canada Open Access


Other title
forest hydrology
snow hydrology
hillslope hydrology
boreal plain
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Redding, Todd
Supervisor and department
Devito, Kevin (Biological Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Bayne, Erin (Biological Sciences)
Buttle, James (Geography, Trent University)
Mendoza, Carl (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)
Silins, Uldis (Renewable Resources)
Department of Biological Sciences

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Understanding the controls on water movement on forested uplands is critical in predicting the potential effects of disturbance on the sustainability of water resources. I examined the controls on vertical and lateral water movement on forested uplands on a range of landforms (coarse textured outwash, fine textured moraine) and time periods (individual events, during snowmelt, through the growing season, annually, and long-term) at the Utikuma Region Study Area (URSA) on the sub-humid Boreal Plains of Alberta, Canada. To quantify vertical and lateral water movement, hydrometric and tracer measurements were made under natural and experimental conditions at plot and hillslope scales. Vertical flow and unsaturated zone storage dominated hydrologic response to snowmelt and rainfall at the plot and hillslope scales. Plot-scale snowmelt infiltration was greater than near-surface runoff, and when runoff occurred it was limited to south-facing outwash hillslopes underlain by concrete frost. Rainfall simulation studies showed that even under the extreme conditions tested, vertical flow and storage dominated the hydrologic response. Soils at field capacity and precipitation inputs of 15-20 mm or greater at high intensities were required to generate lateral flow via the transmissivity feedback mechanism. The threshold soil moisture and precipitation conditions are such that lateral flow will occur infrequently under natural conditions. Seasonal vertical water movement under natural conditions was greater on outwash than moraine uplands. The maximum downward vertical movement occurred in response to snowmelt, with little subsequent movement over the growing season. Recharge following snowmelt was similar for outwash and moraine sites and was followed by declining water tables through the growing season. Tracer estimates of long-term root zone drainage were low, while estimates of recharge for the moraine were high, raising questions about the appropriateness of this method for these sites. These results emphasize the dominance of vertical relative to lateral water flow on Boreal Plain uplands. Detailed understanding of the controls on water movement can be used to predict the potential effects of disturbance on hydrology and water resources.
License granted by Todd Redding ( on 2009-08-17T20:44:23Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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