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A New Understanding of Subsurface Flow in Headwater Streams

July 1, 2007
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In many headwater streams in stony north-central Massachusetts, much of the water flows below the surface of the ground instead of in an open channel. Harvard Forest researchers, including summer students working through the NSF-funded Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program, compared water temperatures, chemistry, and aquatic life in surface and subsurface-flowing sections of Bigelow Brook-west, a small, hemlock-dominated headwater stream on the west side of Prospect Hill in Petersham, MA. Subsurface reaches support aquatic insects and other freshwater animals and are similar to surface reaches. Better understanding of so-called "intermittent" streams that actually flow continuously may contribute to changes in state and local regulations affecting these headwater habitats.

Collins, B. M., W. V. Sobczak, and E. A. Colburn. 2007. Subsurface Flowpaths in a Forested Headwater Stream Harbor. A Diverse Macroinvertebrate Community. Wetlands. 27(2): 319-325. 

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