A conceptual hydrologic model for a forested Carolina bay depressional wetland on the Coastal Plain of South Carolina, USA
This paper describes how climate influences the hydrology of an ephemeral depressional wetland. Surface water and groundwater elevation data were collected for 7 years in a Coastal Plain watershed in South Carolina USA containing depressional wetlands, known as Carolina bays. Rainfall and temperature data were compared with water-table well and piezometer data in and around one wetland. Using these data a conceptual model was created that describes the hydrology of the system under wet, dry, and drought conditions. The data suggest this wetland operates as a focal point for groundwater recharge under most climate conditions. During years of below-normal to normal rainfall the hydraulic gradient indicated the potential for groundwater recharge from the depression, whereas during years of above-normal rainfall, the hydraulic gradient between the adjacent upland, the wetland margin, and the wetland centre showed the potential for groundwater discharge into the wetland. Using high-resolution water-level measurements, this groundwater discharge condition was found to hold true even during individual rainfall events, especially under wet antecedent soil conditions. The dynamic nature of the hydrology in this Carolina bay clearly indicates it is not an isolated system as previously believed, and our groundwater data expand upon previous hydrologic investigations at similar sites which do not account for the role of groundwater in estimating the water budget of such systems.