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


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.


Analytical techniques Frequency analysis Hydrologic characterization Wetlands 



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.


  1. Altman DG, Bland JM (1994) Statistics notes: quartiles, quintiles, centiles, and other quantiles. BMJ 309(6960):996PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bradley C (2002) Simulation of the annual water table dynamics of a floodplain wetland, Narborough Bog, UK. J Hydrol 261(1–4):150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bras RL, Rodríguez-Iturbe I (1993) Random functions and hydrology. Dover Publications, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Bullock A, Acreman M (2003) The role of wetlands in the hydrological cycle. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 7(3):358–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carr DW, Rochow TF (2004) Comparison of six biologic indicators of hydrology in isolated Taxodium ascendens domes. Southwest Florida Water Management District, Technical Memorandum, Brooksville, April 19, 4Google Scholar
  6. Carr DW, Leeper DA, Rochow TF (2006) Comparison of six biologic indicators of hydrology and the landward extent of hydric soils in west-central Florida, USA cypress domes. Wetlands 26(4):1012–1019CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chow TV, Maidment DR, Mays LW (1988) Applied hydrology. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Conner W, Mihalia I, Wolfe J (2002) Tree community structure and changes from 1987 to 1999 in three Louisiana and three South Carolina forested wetlands. Wetlands 22(1):58–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Freeze RA, Cherry JA (1979) Groundwater. Prentice-Hall, Englewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  10. Groffman PM, Bain DJ, Band LE, Belt KT, Brush GS, Grove JM, Pouyat RV, Yesilonis IC, Zipperer WC (2003) Down by the riverside: urban riparian ecology. Front Ecol Environ 1(6):315–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Haag KH, Lee TM, Herndon DC (2005) Bathymetry and vegetation in isolated marsh and cypress wetlands in the northern Tampa Bay Area, 2000–2004. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5109, p 49Google Scholar
  12. Hammersmark CT, Rains MC, Wickland AC, Mount JF (2009) Vegetation and water-table relationships in a hydrologically restored riparian meadow. Wetlands 29(3):785–797CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hammersmark CT, Dobrowski SZ, Rains MC, Mount JF (2010) Simulated effects of stream restoration on the distribution of wet-meadow vegetation. Restor Ecol 18(6):882–893CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hayashi M, van der Kamp G, Rudolph DL (1998) Water and solute transfer between a prairie wetland and adjacent uplands, 1. Water balance. J Hydrol 207(1–2):42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Heffernan JB (2008) Wetlands as an alternative stable state in desert streams. Ecology 89(5):1261–1271PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hogg RV, Ledolter J (1987) Engineering statistics. Macmillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Johnson AI (1967) Specific yield: compilation of specific yields for various materials. U.S. G.P.O, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  18. Johnson WC, Boettcher SE, Poiani KA, Guntenspergen G (2004) Influence of weather extremes on the water levels of glaciated prairie wetlands. Wetlands 24(2):385–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kratz TK, Webster KE, Riera JL, Lewis DB, Pollard AI (2006) Making sense of the landscape: geomorphic legacies and the landscape position of lakes. In: Magnuson J, Kratz TK, Benson BJ (eds) Long-term dynamics of lakes in the landscape: long-term ecological research on north temperate lakes. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 49–66Google Scholar
  20. Lee TM, Swancar A (1997) Influence of evaporation, ground water, and uncertainty in the hydrologic budget of Lake Lucerne, a seepage lake in Polk County, Florida. U.S. Geological Survey water-supply paper 2439, p 61Google Scholar
  21. Lee TM, Haag KH, Metz PA, Sacks LA (2009) Comparative hydrology, water quality, and ecology of selected natural and augmented freshwater wetlands in west-central Florida. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1758, p 152Google Scholar
  22. Maidment DR (1993) Handbook of hydrology. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Makkonen L (2008) Bringing closure to the plotting position controversy. Commun Stat Theory Methods 37(3):460–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Miller JA (1997) The hydrogeology of Florida. In: Jones DS, Randazzo R (eds) The geology of Florida. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, pp 69–88Google Scholar
  25. Mitsch WJ, Gosselink JG (2000) Wetlands. John Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2009) Annual climatological summary. National Climatic Data Center
  27. Nestler JM, Long KS (1997) Development of hydrological indices to aid cumulative impact analysis of riverine wetlands. Regul Rivers Res Manag 13(4):317–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nilsson KA (2010) Improved methodologies for modeling storage and water level behavior in wetlands. PhD Dissertation, University of South Florida, Tampa, FloridaGoogle Scholar
  29. Nilsson KA, Ross MA, Trout KE (2008) Analytic method to derive wetland stage-storage relationships using GIS areas. J Hydrol Eng 13(4):278–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rains MC, Mount JF, Larsen EW (2004) Simulated changes in shallow groundwater and vegetation distributions under different reservoir operations scenarios. Ecol Appl 14(1):192–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sabo JL, Sponseller R, Dixon M, Gade K, Harms T, Heffernan J, Jani A, Katz G, Soykan C, Watts J, Welter J (2005) Riparian zones increase regional species richness by harboring different, not more, species. Ecology 86(1):56–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Scheffer M, Carpenter SR (2003) Catastrophic regime shifts in ecosystems: linking theory to observation. Trends Ecol Evol 18(12):648–656CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schmidt W (1997) Geomorphology and physiography of Florida. In: Randazzo AF, Jones DS (eds) The geology of Florida. University Presses of Florida, Gainesville, pp 1–12Google Scholar
  34. Sinclair WC, Stewart JW, Knutilla RL, Gilboy AE, Miller RL (1985) Types, features, and occurrence of sinkholes in the karst of west-central Florida. U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 85-4126, p 8Google Scholar
  35. Soranno PA, Webster KE, Riera JL, Kratz TK, Baron JS, Bukaveckas PA, Kling GW, White DS, Caine N, Lathrop RC, Leavitt PR (1999) Spatial variation among lakes within landscapes: ecological organization along Lake Chains. Ecosystems 2(5):395–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Southeastern Geological Society (1986) Hydrogeological units of Florida. Tallahassee, Florida Bureau of Geology Special Publication 28, p 9Google Scholar
  37. Southwest Florida Water Management District (2005) Wetland Assessment Procedure (WAP) Instruction Manual for Isolated Wetlands, March 2005. Prepared by Southwest Florida Water Management District and Tampa Bay Water, a Regional Water Supply AuthorityGoogle Scholar
  38. Southwest Florida Water Management District (2007) Data & Maps, GIS Data.
  39. Stahl L, Snyder B, Olsen A, Pitt J (2009) Contaminants in fish tissue from US lakes and reservoirs: a national probabilistic study. Environ Monit Assess 150(1):3–19PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. The Southeast Regional Climate Center (2010) Historical climate summaries for Florida. The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (ed). The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
  41. StatSoft Inc. (2010) Electronic statistics textbook. StatSoft. WEB, Tulsa, OK
  42. Sumner D (2007) Effects of capillarity and microtopography on wetland specific yield. Wetlands 27(3):693–701CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sweeting MM (1973) Karst landforms. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  44. Tihansky AB, Knochenmus LA (2001) Karst features and hydrogeology in west-central Florida: a field perspective. In: Kuniansky EL (ed) U.S. Geological Survey Karst Interest Group Proceedings, pp 198–211Google Scholar
  45. Tiner RW (2003) Estimated extent of geographically isolated wetlands in selected areas of the United States. Wetlands 23(3):636–652CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2007) National wetlands inventory website. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC.
  47. Watts D, Cohen M, Heffernan J, Osborne T (2010) Hydrologic modification and the loss of self-organized patterning in the ridge–slough mosaic of the Everglades. Ecosystems 13(6):813–827CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Weisstein EW (2009a) Distribution function. From MathWorld: a Wolfram Web Resource
  49. Weisstein EW (2009b) Plotting position. From MathWorld: a Wolfram Web Resource
  50. Wise WR, Annable MD, Walser JAE, Switt RS, Shaw DT (2000) A wetland-aquifer interaction test. J Hydrol 227(1–4):257CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations