, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 1117–1130 | Cite as

Hydrological Importance and Water Quality Treatment Potential of a Small Freshwater Wetland in the Humid Tropics of Costa Rica

  • David Kaplan
  • Manon Bachelin
  • Rafael Muñoz-CarpenaEmail author
  • Warner Rodríguez Chacón


Rapid increases in population and growing food demand are causing widespread deterioration of tropical wetlands globally, and an increased focus on the role and function of these imperiled ecosystems is required. Objectives of this study were to investigate the hydrological dynamics and water quality treatment potential of a small freshwater wetland in the humid tropics of Costa Rica. High-resolution, spatially distributed surface water and meteorological data were combined with a detailed topographical survey to quantify the wetland water balance, hydroperiod, and seasonal variability of wetland area, volume, and residence time. The water balance was dominated by precipitation and outflow, with little contribution from runoff, except during the largest storms. Over 80% of the wetland was flooded continuously; hydroperiods in remaining areas were bi-modal. Small seasonal variations in wetland area, volume, and residence times yielded high and sustained water quality treatment potential. Potential pollutant removal efficiencies were 63.6–99.8% for biological oxygen demand; 60.0–99.8% for total suspended solids; 51.1–98.5% for total nitrogen; and 34.2–99.7% for total phosphorous. The study provides insights into the hydrological functions of this and similar small Central American wetlands and provides a template for extending in-depth hydrological monitoring to other tropical wetland sites.


Ecosystem service Hydroperiod Residence time Treatment wetland Water balance 



We thank Dr. Wynn Philips and the University of Florida (UF) Gatorade Foundation for the generous funding to support this research. This work would not have been possible without the contributions of Paul Lane (UF) and Julio Tejada, Faelen Tais Kolln, Maria Floridalma Miguel Ros, Natalia Solano Valverde, Pedro Bidegaray, and Daniel Sherrard (EARTH University). M. Bachelin thanks Dr. Wendy Graham (UF Water Institute) for financial support, and Dr. Andrea Rinaldo (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) for supervision.

Supplementary material

13157_2011_222_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (267 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 267 kb)


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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Kaplan
    • 1
    • 4
  • Manon Bachelin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rafael Muñoz-Carpena
    • 1
    Email author
  • Warner Rodríguez Chacón
    • 3
  1. 1.Agricultural and Biological Engineering DepartmentUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Section Sciences et Ingénierie de l’EnvironnementÉcole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne CE 3 316LausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.EARTH UniversitySan JoséCosta Rica
  4. 4.Ecohydrology Laboratory, School of Forest Resources and ConservationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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