Hydraulic tracer studies are frequently used to estimate wetland residence time distributions (RTDs) and ultimately pollutant removal. However, there is no consensus on how to analyse these data. We set out to (i) review the different methods used and (ii) use simulations to explore how the data analysis method influences the quantification of wetland hydraulics and pollutant removal. The results showed that the method influences the water dispersion (N) most strongly and the removal least strongly. The influence increased with decreasing effective volume ratio (e) and N, indicating a greater effect of the method in wetlands with low effective volume and high dispersion. The method of moments with RTD truncation at 3 times the theoretical residence time (tn) and tracer background concentration produced the most dissimilar parameters. The most similar parameters values were those for gamma modelling and the method of moments with RTD truncation at tracer background concentration. For correct removal estimates, e was more important than N. However, the results from the literature review and simulations indicated that previously published articles may contain overestimated e and underestimated N values as a result of frequent RTD truncations at 3tn when using the method of moments. As a result, the removal rates may also be overestimated by as much as 14% compared to other truncation methods or modelling. Thus, it is recommended that wetland hydraulic tracer studies should use the same method, specifically, RTD truncation. We conclude that the choice of tracer data analysis method can greatly influence the quantifications of wetland hydraulics and removal rate.
- Naturvetenskap (1)