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Water 2015, 7(7), 3997-4025; doi:10.3390/w7073997

Defining an Ecologically Ideal Shallow Groundwater Depth for Regional Sustainable Management: Conceptual Development and Case Study on the Sanjiang Plain, Northeast China

1
Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changchun 130102, China
2
University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
3
Key Laboratory of Wetland Ecology and Environment, Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changchun 130102, China
4
School of Renewable Natural Resources, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, 227 Highland Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
5
Northeast Electric Power Design Institute Co., Ltd. of China Power Engineering Consulting Group, Changchun 130033, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 21 April 2015 / Revised: 30 June 2015 / Accepted: 6 July 2015 / Published: 21 July 2015
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Abstract

The depth and fluctuation of shallow groundwater influence water supply to land surface vegetation. Knowledge of an ecologically ideal depth range of shallow groundwater for a vegetation ecosystem can be crucial for sustainability of regional water resource management and ecological conservation. In this study, we developed a conceptual model that identifies an upper and a lower boundary of shallow groundwater for sustaining present vegetation ecosystems, termed ecologically ideal shallow groundwater depth (EISGD). We then applied the conceptual model to the Sanjiang Plain (10.9 × 104 km2) in northeast China in order to gain insights into sustainable shallow groundwater usage in this intensively irrigated agricultural region. Using soil capillary rise, plant rooting depth, extinction depth, and the actual groundwater depth, we identified an upper boundary range of EISGD between 0.5 and 2.8 m and a lower boundary range of EISGD between 2.0 and 14.3 m for different vegetation covers in the Sanjiang Plain. Based on the ranges, we estimated allowable shallow groundwater withdrawal (i.e., without degrading the present vegetation ecosystem) for the region and identified an area of 2.54 × 1010 m2 with a total of 9.14 × 108 m3 water deficit. Currently, the entire Sanjiang Plain has a total volume of 45.30 × 108 m3 EISGD allowable shallow groundwater withdrawal, thus the plain’s northeast region can be considered as having a high allowable pumping capacity. This study demonstrates that application of an EISGD concept can be useful for developing regional management strategies and plans for ecological protection and sustainable groundwater utilization. View Full-Text
Keywords: ecohydrogeology; shallow groundwater; soil-water interaction; groundwater evaporation; water resources management; ecological protection; Sanjiang plain ecohydrogeology; shallow groundwater; soil-water interaction; groundwater evaporation; water resources management; ecological protection; Sanjiang plain
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Wang, X.; Zhang, G.; Xu, Y.J.; Shan, X. Defining an Ecologically Ideal Shallow Groundwater Depth for Regional Sustainable Management: Conceptual Development and Case Study on the Sanjiang Plain, Northeast China. Water 2015, 7, 3997-4025.

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