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Environ Monit Assess. 2011 Dec;183(1-4):485-500. doi: 10.1007/s10661-011-1934-9. Epub 2011 Mar 15.

Using continuous surface water level and temperature data to characterize hydrological connectivity in riparian wetlands.

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Central Chemical Laboratory, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Müggelseedamm 301, 12587 Berlin, Germany.


Methods to characterize hydrological connectivity at riparian wetlands are necessary for ecosystem management given its importance over ecosystem structure and functioning. In this paper, we aimed to describe hydrological connectivity at one Ebro River reach (NE Spain) and test a method to perform such characterization. Continuous surface water level and temperature data were recorded at five riparian wetlands during the period October 2006-June 2007. Combining water level and temperature, we classified the examined wetlands in three groups, which mainly differed in the dominant water source during different flood stages. Firstly, a comparison of water level fluctuations in riparian wetlands with those in the river channel during events with different characteristics was used to describe hydrological connectivity. Such comparison was also used to extract quantitative hydrological connectivity descriptors as the wetland response initiation time. Secondly, water temperature series were divided in phases with different average, range and daily oscillation, and these parameters were interpreted for each phase to identify dominant flowpaths. By doing so, a more complete description of hydrological connectivity was achieved. Our method provided useful insights to describe hydrological connectivity using a qualitative approach that can be expanded if required to include quantitative parameters for studies of biotic assemblages or ecosystem processes.

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