Modeling the climatic and subsurface stratigraphy controls on the hydrology of a Carolina bay wetland in South Carolina, USA
Restoring depressional wetlands or geographically isolated wetlands such as cypress swamps and Carolina bays on the Atlantic Coastal Plains requires a clear understanding of the hydrologic processes and water balances. The objectives of this paper are to (1) test a distributed forest hydrology model, FLATWOODS, for a Carolina bay wetland system using seven years of water-table data and (2) to use the model to understand how the landscape position and the site stratigraphy affect ground-water flow direction. The research site is located in Bamberg County, South Carolina on the Middle Coastal Plain of the southeastern U.S. (32.888 N, 81.128 W). Model calibration (1998) and validation (1997, 1999–2003) data span a wet period and a long drought period, which allowed us to test the model for a wide range of weather conditions. The major water input to the wetland is rainfall, and output from the wetland is dominated by evapotranspiration. However, the Carolina bay is a flow-through wetland, receiving ground water from the adjacent upland, but recharging the ground-water to lower topographic areas, especially during wet periods in winter months. Hypothetical simulations suggest that ground-water flow direction is controlled by the gradient of the underlying hydrologic restricting layer beneath the wetland-upland continuum, not solely by the topographic gradient of the land surface. Ground-water flow may change directions during transition periods of wetland hydroperiod that is controlled by the balance of precipitation and evapotranspiration, and such changes depend on the underlying soil stratigraphy of the wetland-upland continuum.