Characterizing hydrology and the importance of ground-water discharge in natural and constructed wetlands
- Cite this article as:
- Hunt, R.J., Walker, J.F. & Krabbenhoft, D.P. Wetlands (1999) 19: 458. doi:10.1007/BF03161777
Although considered the most important component for the establishment and persistence of wetlands, hydrology has been hard to characterize and linkages between hydrology and other environmental conditions are often poorly understood. In this work, methods for characterizing a wetland’s hydrology from hydrographs were developed, and the importance of ground water to the physical and geochemical conditions in the root zone was investigated. Detailed sampling of nearly continuous hydrographs showed that sites with greater ground-water discharge had higher water tables and more stable hydrographs. Subsampling of the continuous hydrograph failed to characterize the sites correctly, even though the wetland complex is located in a strong regional ground-water-discharge area. By comparing soil-moisture-potential measurements to the water-table hydrograph at one site, we noted that the amount of root-zone saturation was not necessarily driven by the water-table hydrograph but can be a result of other soil parameters (i.e., soil texture and associated capillary fringe). Ground-water discharge was not a significant determinant of maximum or average temperatures in the root zone. High ground-water discharge was associated with earliest date of thaw and shortest period of time that the root zone was frozen, however. Finally, the direction and magnitude of shallow ground-water flow was found to affect the migration and importance of a geochemical species. Areas of higher ground-water discharge had less downward penetration of CO2 generated in the root zone. In contrast, biotically derived CO2 was able to penetrate the deeper ground-water system in areas of ground-water recharge. Although ground-water flows are difficult to characterize, understanding these components is critical to the success of wetland restoration and creation efforts.