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Freshwater-Saltwater Interactions along the Atlantic Coast

A Regional Assessment of the Ground-Water Resources Program

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Ground-Water Flow and Discharge to Coastal Environments
Identification of ground-water flowpaths and ground-water discharge is critical in understanding the freshwater inputs and water quality of coastal ecosystems. Freshwater discharge to coastal wetlands and estuaries is an important national issue because of the habitats these areas provide for plants, fish, and wildlife. Examples of areas where freshwater inputs are a concern are Chesapeake Bay; Florida Bay; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Great South Bay, Long Island. Many different types of coastal terranes and ecosystems can be found along the eastern seaboard. The importance of ground water as a source of freshwater and nutrients to these different ecosystems has only recently begun to be understood. The complexity of ground-water dynamics in coastal ecosystems is illustrated by ground-water flowpaths and discharge locations in tidal saltmarshes of New England (figure 6).
Ground-water flowpaths and discharge locations
Ground-water flowpaths and discharge locations within a tidal saltmarsh of New England

Ground-water discharge is focused at the boundary seepage and creek bottom zones where marsh peat is thinnest and hydraulic conductivities of the marsh and aquifer materials are largest. (Figure modified from Howes, B.L, Weiskel, P.K., Goehringer, D.D., and Teal, J.M., 1996, Interception of freshwater and nitrogen transport from uplands to coastal waters: the role of saltmarshes, in Nordstrom, K.F., and Roman, C.T., eds., Estuarine shores: evolution, environments and human alterations: New York, John Wiley.)


For more Information, Contact
Paul Barlow, Coordinator
Atlantic Coastal Zone Assessment
U.S. Geological Survey
10 Bearfoot Road
Northborough, MA 01532
(508) 490-5070
pbarlow@usgs.gov

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Page Last Modified: Thursday, 03-Jan-2013 20:07:18 EST