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Wetlands Ecology and Management

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 1–14 | Cite as

Hydrologic characterization of 56 geographically isolated wetlands in west-central Florida using a probabilistic method

  • Kenneth A. NilssonEmail author
  • Mark C. Rains
  • David B. Lewis
  • Kenneth E. Trout
Original Paper

Abstract

Wetlands are important hydrological elements of watersheds that influence water storage, surface water runoff, groundwater recharge/discharge processes, and evapotranspiration. Understanding the cumulative effect wetlands have on a watershed requires a good understanding of representative water-level fluctuations and storage characteristics associated with multiple wetlands across a region. We introduce a probabilistic approach based on frequency analysis of water levels in numerous geographically isolated wetlands across the mantled karst terrain of west-central Florida, in the Tampa Bay region. This approach estimates the probabilities, or percentage of time, that water levels in a wetland or upland groundwater wells are at or below a specific elevation. We applied this hydrologic characterization to 56 wetlands in west-central Florida, and documented that standing water was present in the wetlands 61 % of the time and that these wetlands were groundwater recharge zones at least 50 % of the time over the 7 year study. Additionally, we demonstrated that various wetland types, classified according to vegetation community composition and structure, exhibit similar means, extremes and ranges in water-level behavior. We believe that this is the first paper to robustly quantify inundation frequency and recharge status in seasonally flooded wetlands at a regional scale. The analytical tool introduced in this manuscript could be used to detect, through changes in water-level frequency distribution, wetland hydrological response to different climatological or anthropogenic stressors. This tool is timely as changes in frequency distribution shape may provide early warnings of ecosystem regime change.

Keywords

Analytical techniques Frequency analysis Hydrologic characterization Wetlands 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to graciously acknowledge the contributions of Michael C. Hancock, Senior Professional Engineer, Resource Projects Department, Southwest Florida Water Management District, who provided the wetland database used in this study, and Terrie M. Lee, United States Geological Survey, Water Resources Division. They provided valuable advice and insights throughout the development of this manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth A. Nilsson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mark C. Rains
    • 1
  • David B. Lewis
    • 2
  • Kenneth E. Trout
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GeologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  3. 3.Research Associate, Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA

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