Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2020GA112B

Changing flood dynamics in Southeastern rivers: consequences for water and habitat quality

Institute: Georgia
Year Established: 2020 Start Date: 2020-03-01 End Date: 2021-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $18,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $36,000

Principal Investigators: Darold Batzer

Abstract: For coastal plain rivers of the Southeastern US, the flood pulse concept is the major paradigm to explain how the rivers function. However, emerging evidence suggests that flood pulse magnitudes and seasonal timing are changing. As such controls exerted by flood pulses are changing, likely resulting in new functional controls on Southeastern floodplain rivers. Before we can predict the consequences of changing flood pulse dynamics, we need to empirically establish the details of how flood pulses affect coupled river-floodplain systems; this is the major goal of this project. Using four locations along the Ogeechee River, GA (among the most pristine in the US), we will describe flood pulse characters, in terms of hydrology, water chemistry (C, nutrients), and impacts on biota, sampling pulses in late winter-early spring, late-spring, and during the summer/fall hurricane season, over multiple years. Over our proposed study period, flood pulses will undoubtedly be highly variable, some small and others will still be large, with each occurring at specific times of the year. By characterizing a range of flood pulses, we can develop predictive models of how the size and timing of flood pulses affect river-floodplain systems, and predict how functional controls will be altered if current trends of change continue. Understanding how this emerging situation controls river dynamics is needed for a multitude of reasons, from conserving biodiversity and managing fisheries, to predicting how water management strategies will impact water resources and water quality.