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Monitoring and Modeling the Effect of Agricultural Drainage and Recent Channel Incision on Adjacent Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystems

Harold Hamm School of Geology and Geological Engineering, University of North Dakota, 81 Cornell Street, Stop 8358, Grand Forks, ND 58202-8358, USA
Water 2019, 11(4), 863; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11040863
Received: 8 February 2019 / Revised: 19 April 2019 / Accepted: 20 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Hydrology)
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Abstract

Channel incision isolates flood plains, disrupts sediment transport, and degrades riparian ecology. Reactivation and periodicity of incision may affect the water table and hydrological conditions far beyond the stream margin. Long-term incision and its recent acceleration along Iron Springs Creek, North Dakota, USA, has affected adjacent ecosystems. An agricultural surface drain empties directly into the original spring-fed source of the creek, which triggered channel erosion both up- and downstream. Historical maps, recent LiDAR, and field surveying were used to characterize incision since ditch excavation in 1911. Although the soils are sandy, small hydrological gradients impede natural drainage in the surrounding stabilized dunes. Incision resulting from expanded drainage and increased precipitation has been as much as 5 m. Numerical models of lateral groundwater profiles corroborated with field measurements show that the nearby water table responds quickly, becoming deeper and less variable. With 1 m of recent incision, model evapotranspiration rates are decreased 50% to 15% from the channel margin to 1 km, respectively, and the hydropattern disrupted >1 km. Species diversity is reduced and floristic quality is 25% less near the drain. A near-channel solution to erosion—fencing out cattle—failed to mitigate the problem because a broader watershed approach was necessary. View Full-Text
Keywords: erosion; incision; groundwater; MODFLOW; wetlands; drainage; floral quality index FQI; water table erosion; incision; groundwater; MODFLOW; wetlands; drainage; floral quality index FQI; water table
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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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Gerla, P.J. Monitoring and Modeling the Effect of Agricultural Drainage and Recent Channel Incision on Adjacent Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystems. Water 2019, 11, 863.

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