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Open-File Report 2007–1304

Assessment of Groundwater Input and Water Quality Changes Impacting Natural Vegetation in the Loxahatchee River and Floodplain Ecosystem, Florida

By William H. Orem, Peter W. Swarzenski, Benjamin F. McPherson, Marion Hedgepath, Harry E. Lerch, Christopher Reich, Arturo E. Torres, Margo D. Corum, and Richard E. Roberts

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The Loxahatchee River and Estuary are small, shallow, water bodies located in southeastern Florida. Historically, the Northwest Branch (Fork) of the Loxahatchee River was primarily a freshwater system. In 1947, the river inlet at Jupiter was dredged for navigation and has remained permanently open since that time. Drainage patterns within the basin have also been altered significantly due to land development, road construction (e.g., Florida Turnpike), and construction of the C-18 and other canals. These anthropogenic activities along with sea level rise have resulted in significant adverse impacts on the ecosystem over the last several decades, including increased saltwater encroachment and undesired vegetation changes in the floodplain. The problem of saltwater intrusion and vegetation degradation in the Loxahatchee River may be partly induced by diminished freshwater input, from both surface water and ground water into the River system.

The overall objective of this project was to assess the seasonal surface water and groundwater interaction and the influence of the biogeochemical characteristics of shallow groundwater and porewater on vegetation health in the Loxahatchee floodplain. The hypothesis tested are: (1) groundwater influx constitutes a significant component of the overall flow of water into the Loxahatchee River; (2) salinity and other chemical constituents in shallow groundwater and porewater of the river floodplain may affect the distribution and health of the floodplain vegetation.

For additional information on Open-File Report 2007-1304, please contact the author.


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