Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

A comparison of the watershed hydrology of coastal forested wetlands and the mountainous uplands in the Southern US

Informally Refereed
Authors: G. Sun, S.G. McNulty, D.M. Amatya, R.W. Skaggs, L.W. Jr..Swift, J.P. Shepard, H. Riekerk
Year: 2002
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Southern Research Station
Source: Journal of Hydrology 263 (2002) 92-104


Hydrology plays a critical roie in wetland development and ecosystem structure and functions. Hydrologic responses to forest management and climate change are diverse in the Southern United States due to topographic and climatic differences. This paper presents a comparison study on long-term hydrologic characteristics (long-term seasonal runoff patterns, water balances, storm flow patterns) of three watersheds in the southern US. These three watersheds represent three types of fores ecosystems commonly found in the lower Atlantic coastal plain and the Appalachian upland mountains. Compared to the warm, flat, and shallow groundwater dominated pine flatwoods on the coast, the inland upland watershed was found to have significantly higher water yield, Precipitation/Hamon's potential evapotranspiration ratio (1.9 for upland vs 1.4 and 0.9 for wetlands), and runoff/precipitation ratio (0.53 ± 0.092 for upland vs 0.30 ± 0.079 and 0.13 ± 0.094 for wetlands). Streamflow from fiatwoods watersheds generally are discontinuous most of the years while the upland watershed showed continuous flows in most years. Stormflow peaks in a cypress-pine Aatwoods system were smaller than that in the upland watershed for most cases, but exceptions occurred under extreme wet conditions. Our study concludes that climate is the most important factor in determining the watershed water balances in the southern US. Topography effects streamflow patterns and stormflow peaks and volume, and is the key to wetland development in the southern US.


Evapotranspiration, Forested wetlands, Pine flatwoods, Uplands, Water balance


Sun, G.; McNulty, S.G.; Amatya, D.M.; Skaggs, R.W.; Swift, L.W., Jr.; Shepard, J.P.; Riekerk, H. 2002. A comparison of the watershed hydrology of coastal forested wetlands and the mountainous uplands in the Southern US. Journal of Hydrology 263 (2002) 92-104