Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 65, Issue 3, pp 609–620 | Cite as

Hydrochemical and hydrological processes in the different landscape zones of alpine cold region in China

  • Yong-gang YangEmail author
  • Hong-lang Xiao
  • Song-bing Zou
  • Liang-ju Zhao
  • Mao-xian Zhou
  • Lan-gong Hou
  • Fang Wang
Original Article


Investigation of water sources and flow pathways is crucial to understand and evaluate the characteristics of surface water and groundwater systems. This article aims to identify the hydrochemical and hydrological processes in different landscape zones based on hydrochemical analyses of various samples, including samples from glacier, snow, frozen soil meltwater, surface water, groundwater, and precipitation, in the alpine cold region of China. Hydrochemical tracers indicated that chemical compositions are characterized by the Ca-HCO3 type in the glacier-snow zone; the Mg-Ca-SO4 type in the alpine cold desert zone; the Ca-HCO3-SO4 type in the marsh meadow zone; the Ca-Mg-HCO3 type in the alpine shrub zone; and the Ca-Na-SO4 type in the mountain grassland zone. An end-member mixing model was used for hydrograph separation. The results showed that the Mafengou River in the wet season was recharged by groundwater in the alpine cold desert and alpine shrub zones (67%), surface runoff in the glacier-snow zone (11%), surface runoff in the alpine cold desert zone (8%), thawed water from frozen soil in the marsh meadow and mountain grassland zones (9%), and direct precipitation on the river channel (5%). This study suggests that precipitation from the whole catchment yielded little direct surface runoff; precipitation was mostly transformed into groundwater or interflow and was then concentrated into the river channel. This study provides a scientific basis for evaluation and management of water resources in the basin.


Landscape zone Hydrological processes Hydrochemistry Alpine cold region 



This research is supported by State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering (SKLFSE200905), The Ministry of Forestry Commonweal Special Project (201004010-05), National Natural Science Foundation of China (91025016, 2011BAC07B05), and the West Light Foundation of West Doctor of CAS, and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (20070420760, 200801244). The authors are grateful to Heihe Upstream Watershed Ecology-Hydrology Experimental Research Station and all participants in the field for their contributions to the progress of this study. We also express our appreciation to the anonymous reviewers of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yong-gang Yang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Hong-lang Xiao
    • 2
  • Song-bing Zou
    • 2
    • 3
  • Liang-ju Zhao
    • 2
  • Mao-xian Zhou
    • 2
  • Lan-gong Hou
    • 2
  • Fang Wang
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Loess PlateauShanxi UniversityTaiyuanChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Ecohydrology and River Basin Science, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil EngineeringLanzhouChina

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