Understanding Fen Hydrology across Multiple Scales
Sampath, Prasanna Venkatesh; Liao, Hua-Sheng; Curtis, Zachary Kristopher; Herbert, Matthew E.; Doran, Patrick J.; May, Christopher A.; Landis, Douglas A.; Li, Shu-Guang
Volume 30, Issue 19, pp. 3390-3407 September 2016, Hydrological Processes
Fens, which are among the most biodiverse of wetland types in the USA, typically occur in glacial landscapes characterized by geo‐morphologic variability at multiple spatial scales. As a result, the hydrologic systems that sustain fens are complex and not well understood. Traditional approaches for characterizing such systems use simplifying assumptions that cannot adequately capture the impact of variability in geology and topography. In this study, a hierarchical, multi‐scale groundwater modelling approach coupled with a geologic model is used to understand the hydrology of a fen in Michigan. This approach uses high‐resolution data to simulate the multi‐scale topographic and hydrologic framework and lithologic data from more than 8500 boreholes in a statewide water well database to capture the complex geology. A hierarchy of dynamically linked models is developed that simulates groundwater flow at all scales of interest and to delineate the areas that contribute groundwater to the fen. The results show the fen receiving groundwater from multiple sources: an adjacent wetland, local recharge, a nearby lake and a regional groundwater mound. Water from the regional mound flows to an intermediate source before reaching the fen, forming a ‘cascading’ connection, while other sources provide water through ‘direct’ connections. The regional mound is also the source of water to other fens, streams and lakes in this area, thus creating a large, interconnected hydrologic system that sustains the entire ecosystem. In order to sustainably manage such systems, conservation efforts must include both site‐based protection and management, as well as regional protection and management of groundwater source areas. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.