US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Hydrogeology Journal (2009) 17: 215–228.


Historically, drier types of wetlands have been difficult to characterize and are not well researched. Nonetheless, they are considered to reflect the precipitation history with little, if any, regard for possible relation to groundwater. Two seasonal coastal wetland types (wet prairie, sedge meadow) were investigated during three growing seasons at three sites in the Lake Michigan Basin, Wisconsin, USA. The six seasonal wetlands were characterized using standard soil and vegetation techniques and groundwater measurements from the shallow and deep systems. They all met wetland hydrology criteria (e.g., water within 30 cm of land surface for 5% of the growing season) during the early portion of the growing season despite the lack of appreciable regional groundwater discharge into the wetland root zones. Although root-zone duration analyses did not fit a lognormal distribution previously noted in groundwater-dominated wetlands, they were able to discriminate between the plant communities and showed that wet prairie communities had shorter durations of continuous soil saturation than sedge meadow communities. These results demonstrate that the relative rates of groundwater outflows can be important for wetland hydrology and resulting wetland type. Thus, regional stresses to the shallow groundwater system such as pumping or low Great Lake levels can be expected to affect even drier wetland types.