Groundwater Development in the Altamaha River Watershed: Implications for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems
Information is presented on the ecological role of groundwater in the Altamaha River watershed. Although groundwater makes up a substantial portion of baseflow to coastal plain streams, it may have ecological benefit far out of proportion to the quantity of seepage or springflow that reaches the river. Groundwater flows provide reliable sources of cool, fresh water that allow aquatic and estuarine organisms to cope with seasonal temperature and salinity stress and sustain baseflows and nutrient delivery during periods when surface runoff is reduced. It is hypothesized that sustained groundwater flows are a principal source of resiliency to coastal plain aquatic ecosystems that allows populations to survive periodic drought and recover quickly from drought-induced stress. As such it is imperative that protection of ecologically-important groundwater resources be incorporated into plans for aquatic ecosystem conservation and water supply development.