Groundwater dependent ecosystems: Classification, identification techniques and threats

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Integrated Groundwater Management: Concepts, Approaches and Challenges, 2016, pp. 313 - 346
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© The Author(s) 2016. This chapter begins by briefly discussing the three major classes of groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs), namely: (I) GDEs that reside within groundwater (e.g. karsts; stygofauna); (II) GDEs requiring the surface expression of groundwater (e.g. springs; wetlands); and (III) GDEs dependent upon sub-surface availability of groundwater within the rooting depth of vegetation (e.g. woodlands; riparian forests). We then discuss a range of techniques available for identifying the location of GDEs in a landscape, with a primary focus of class III GDEs and a secondary focus of class II GDEs. These techniques include inferential methodologies, using hydrological, geochemical and geomorphological indicators, biotic assemblages, historical documentation, and remote sensing methodologies. Techniques available to quantify groundwater use by GDEs are briefly described, including application of simple modelling tools, remote sensing methods and complex modelling applications. This chapter also outlines the contemporary threats to the persistence of GDEs across the world. This involves a description of the “natural” hydrological attributes relevant to GDEs and theprocesses that lead to disturbances to natural hydrological attributes as a result of human activities (e.g. groundwater extraction). Two cases studies, (1) Class III: terrestrial vegetation and (2) Class II: springs, are discussed in relation to these issues.
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