Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (2021-01-01)

Modelling the hydrological interactions between a fissured granite aquifer and a valley mire in the Massif Central, France

  • A. Duranel,
  • A. Duranel,
  • J. R. Thompson,
  • H. Burningham,
  • P. Durepaire,
  • S. Garambois,
  • R. Wyns,
  • H. Cubizolle

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 25
pp. 291 – 319


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We developed a high-resolution MIKE SHE/MIKE 11 model of a 231.3 ha headwater catchment in the granitic uplands of the French Massif Central to estimate the contribution of groundwater upwelling to the water balance of the Dauges mire, an acidic valley mire of international importance for nature conservation. We estimated that groundwater upwelling from the underlying weathered granite formations – mostly an approximately 55 m deep fissured zone – provides 27.1 % of total long-term inflows to the mire. This contribution increases to 37.2 % in September when total inflows are small. Overland boundary inflow accounts for an average of 40.2 % of total inflows. However, most of this originates from groundwater seepage through mineral soils along the mire margins or in small non-channelised valleys upslope of the mire. A sensitivity analysis showed that model performance in terms of the simulation of mire groundwater levels was most sensitive to parameters describing the mineral soils and weathered granite formations rather than the overlying peat layer. Variation partitioning demonstrated that groundwater upwelling was the most important factor driving simulated monthly groundwater table depth within the mire. Sustained groundwater upwelling maintains the mire water table close to or at ground level for most of the year. As a result, precipitation and overland boundary inflows quickly leave the wetland as saturation-excess runoff. There was close agreement between the observed distribution of mire habitats and areas where the simulated long-term groundwater seepage rate was larger than zero in September. Our results demonstrate that, contrary to the assumed small contribution of groundwater to the hydrology of hard-rock regions, groundwater upwelling from underlying weathered formations can be a quantitatively important and functionally critical element of the water balance of valley mires in granitic headwater catchments. These results have important legal and management implications.