FCE LTER Journal Articles


A tidal creek water budget: Estimation of groundwater discharge and overland flow using hydrologic modeling in the Southern Everglades


Taylor Slough is one of the natural freshwater contributors to Florida Bay through a network of microtidal creeks crossing the Everglades Mangrove Ecotone Region (EMER). The EMER ecological function is critical since it mediates freshwater and nutrient inputs and controls the water quality in Eastern Florida Bay. Furthermore, this region is vulnerable to changing hydrodynamics and nutrient loadings as a result of upstream freshwater management practices proposed by the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP), currently the largest wetland restoration project in the USA. Despite the hydrological importance of Taylor Slough in the water budget of Florida Bay, there are no fine scale (∼1 km2) hydrodynamic models of this system that can be utilized as a tool to evaluate potential changes in water flow, salinity, and water quality. Taylor River is one of the major creeks draining Taylor Slough freshwater into Florida Bay. We performed a water budget analysis for the Taylor River area, based on long-term hydrologic data (1999–2007) and supplemented by hydrodynamic modeling using a MIKE FLOOD (DHI,http://dhigroup.com/) model to evaluate groundwater and overland water discharges. The seasonal hydrologic characteristics are very distinctive (average Taylor River wet vs. dry season outflow was 6 to 1 during 1999–2006) with a pronounced interannual variability of flow. The water budget shows a net dominance of through flow in the tidal mixing zone, while local precipitation and evapotranspiration play only a secondary role, at least in the wet season. During the dry season, the tidal flood reaches the upstream boundary of the study area during approximately 80 days per year on average. The groundwater field measurements indicate a mostly upwards-oriented leakage, which possibly equals the evapotranspiration term. The model results suggest a high importance of groundwater contribution to the water salinity in the EMER. The model performance is satisfactory during the dry season where surface flow in the area is confined to the Taylor River channel. The model also provided guidance on the importance of capturing the overland flow component, which enters the area as sheet flow during the rainy season. Overall, the modeling approach is suitable to reach better understanding of the water budget in the mangrove region. However, more detailed field data is needed to ascertain model predictions by further calibrating overland flow parameters.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DBI-0620409 and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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