Self-potential investigations of a gravel bar in a restored river corridor

Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
By: , and 



 Self-potentials (SP) are sensitive to water fluxes and concentration gradients in both saturated and unsaturated geological media, but quantitative interpretations of SP field data may often be hindered by the superposition of different source contributions and time-varying electrode potentials. Self-potential mapping and close to two months of SP monitoring on a gravel bar were performed to investigate the origins of SP signals at a restored river section of the Thur River in northeastern Switzerland. The SP mapping and subsequent inversion of the data indicate that the SP sources are mainly located in the upper few meters in regions of soil cover rather than bare gravel. Wavelet analyses of the time-series indicate a strong, but non-linear influence of water table and water content variations, as well as rainfall intensity on the recorded SP signals. Modeling of the SP response with respect to an increase in the water table elevation and precipitation indicate that the distribution of soil properties in the vadose zone has a very strong influence. We conclude that the observed SP responses on the gravel bar are more complicated than previously proposed semi-empiric relationships between SP signals and hydraulic head or the thickness of the vadose zone. We suggest that future SP monitoring in restored river corridors should either focus on quantifying vadose zone processes by installing vertical profiles of closely spaced SP electrodes or by installing the electrodes within the river to avoid signals arising from vadose zone processes and time-varying electrochemical conditions in the vicinity of the electrodes.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Self-potential investigations of a gravel bar in a restored river corridor
Series title Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
DOI 10.5194/hess-15-729-2011
Volume 15
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher European Geosciences Union
Contributing office(s) Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center
Description 14 p.
First page 729
Last page 742
Country Switzerland
Other Geospatial Lake Constance, Neunforn, Thur catchment, Thur valley aquifer
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