Understanding the Groundwater Hydrology of a Geographically-Isolated Prairie Fen: Implications for Conservation
Prasanna Venkatesh Sampath, Hua-Sheng Liao, Zachary Kristopher Curtis, Patrick J. Doran, Matthew E. Herbert, Christopher A. May, Shu-Guang Li
The sources of water and corresponding delivery mechanisms to groundwater-fed fens are not well understood due to the multi-scale geo-morphologic variability of the glacial landscape in which they occur. This lack of understanding limits the ability to effectively conserve these systems and the ecosystem services they provide, including biodiversity and water provisioning. While fens tend to occur in clusters around regional groundwater mounds, Ives Road Fen in southern Michigan is an example of a geographically-isolated fen. In this paper, we apply a multi-scale groundwater modeling approach to understand the groundwater sources for Ives Road fen. We apply Transition Probability geo-statistics on more than 3000 well logs from a state-wide water well database to characterize the complex geology using conditional simulations. We subsequently implement a 3-dimensional reverse particle tracking to delineate groundwater contribution areas to the fen. The fen receives water from multiple sources: local recharge, regional recharge from an extensive till plain, a regional groundwater mound, and a nearby pond. The regional sources deliver water through a tortuous, 3-dimensional “pipeline” consisting of a confined aquifer lying beneath an extensive clay layer. Water in this pipeline reaches the fen by upwelling through openings in the clay layer. The pipeline connects the geographically-isolated fen to the same regional mound that provides water to other fen clusters in southern Michigan. The major implication of these findings is that fen conservation efforts must be expanded from focusing on individual fens and their immediate surroundings, to studying the much larger and inter-connected hydrologic network that sustains multiple fens.