Project Title

THE ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE OF PERCHED AQUIFERS AND THEIR HYDROLOGICAL CONNECTIVITY TO RIDGE TOP EPHEMERAL WETLANDS IN DANIEL BOONE NATIONAL FOREST

Presenter Hometown

Corbin

Major

Geology

Department

Geosciences

Degree

Undergraduate

Mentor

Dr. Jonathan Malzone

Mentor Department

Geosciences

Abstract

Natural ephemeral wetlands in the ridgetops of the Daniel Boone National Forest serve as reservoirs that recharge a shallow groundwater system. Interactions between surface and groundwater in these isolated systems provide support for the native ecosystem, serving as a breeding ground for amphibians and as source water for vegetation. Currently, it is not understood how groundwater could provide regional biodiversity, a drought buffer, or a crucial role in biogeochemical cycling. It was the goal of this research project to define the seasonal controls of groundwater levels within the aquifer system. This was accomplished by monitoring groundwater and surface water in a representative wetland in the Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky, quantifying the physical properties of the aquifer and groundwater evapotranspiration rate and numerically modeling the groundwater recharge rate required to sustain groundwater levels by analytic element method. Monitoring and aquifer tests were conducted in the summer of 2016 and 2017. All data gathered in the field was introduced into a computer model to simulate the groundwater processes. The results of our research indicate that groundwater stored within hill-slopes acts as a reserve for the surface water during the winter months and contributes further support for the ecosystem. Water use intensifies during leaf-out and eventually overcomes the groundwater recharge rate which can completely desiccate the system. Periodic storm events inundate the wetland, recharging both the surface and groundwater. Sub-seasonal storm events maintain groundwater levels for up to 20 days, before vegetation depletes the stored water.

Presentation format

Poster

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THE ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE OF PERCHED AQUIFERS AND THEIR HYDROLOGICAL CONNECTIVITY TO RIDGE TOP EPHEMERAL WETLANDS IN DANIEL BOONE NATIONAL FOREST

Natural ephemeral wetlands in the ridgetops of the Daniel Boone National Forest serve as reservoirs that recharge a shallow groundwater system. Interactions between surface and groundwater in these isolated systems provide support for the native ecosystem, serving as a breeding ground for amphibians and as source water for vegetation. Currently, it is not understood how groundwater could provide regional biodiversity, a drought buffer, or a crucial role in biogeochemical cycling. It was the goal of this research project to define the seasonal controls of groundwater levels within the aquifer system. This was accomplished by monitoring groundwater and surface water in a representative wetland in the Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky, quantifying the physical properties of the aquifer and groundwater evapotranspiration rate and numerically modeling the groundwater recharge rate required to sustain groundwater levels by analytic element method. Monitoring and aquifer tests were conducted in the summer of 2016 and 2017. All data gathered in the field was introduced into a computer model to simulate the groundwater processes. The results of our research indicate that groundwater stored within hill-slopes acts as a reserve for the surface water during the winter months and contributes further support for the ecosystem. Water use intensifies during leaf-out and eventually overcomes the groundwater recharge rate which can completely desiccate the system. Periodic storm events inundate the wetland, recharging both the surface and groundwater. Sub-seasonal storm events maintain groundwater levels for up to 20 days, before vegetation depletes the stored water.