A conceptual framework for assessing cumulative impacts on the hydrology of nontidal wetlands
Wetlands occur in geologic and hydrologic settings that enhance the accumulation or retention of water. Regional slope, local relief, and permeability of the land surface are major controls on the formation of wetlands by surface-water sources. However, these landscape features also have significant control over groundwater flow systems, which commonly play a role in the formation of wetlands. Because the hydrologic system is a continuum, any modification of one component will have an effect on contiguous components. Disturbances commonly affecting the hydrologic system as it relates to wetlands include weather modification, alteration of plant communities, storage of surface water, road construction, drainage of surface water and soil water, alteration of groundwater recharge and discharge areas, and pumping of groundwater. Assessments of the cumulative effects of one or more of these disturbances on the hydrologic system as related to wetlands must take into account uncertainty in the measurements and in the assumptions that are made in hydrologic studies. For example, it may be appropriate to assume that regional groundwater flow systems are recharged in uplands and discharged in lowlands. However, a similar assumption commonly does not apply on a local scale, because of the spatial and temporal dynamics of groundwater recharge. Lack of appreciation of such hydrologic factors can lead to misunderstanding of the hydrologic function of wetlands within various parts of the landscape and mismanagement of wetland ecosystems.