Hydrology, Cryosphere & Earth Surface Research Spotlight

A Noninvasive Way to Study Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystems

Scientists used a noninvasive method to study the substructure of delicate groundwater-dependent ecosystems.


Some entire ecosystems need groundwater to survive. These are called groundwater-dependent ecosystems (GDE). These ecosystems are particularly sensitive to environmental change, but GDEs are poorly understood, and the complex underground architecture is especially difficult to study without invasive tools that could disrupt the delicate environment. Chambers et al. introduce a new way to study these environments.

The scientists studied a wetland site on the River Lambourn in Berkshire, U. K. The wetland and river are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest for the habitat they provide to aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals.

The authors used a geophysical approach combining three-dimensional electrical resistivity tomography with image edge detectors that by determining the electrical resistivity of underground materials can measure the thickness of the peat underground and provide an indication of the porosity of the sediment and the rock. This enabled them to map the underground hydrology of the ecosystem up to a depth of 25 meters and to reconstruct the architecture through which the underground water seeped and resided. (Water Resources Research, doi:10.1002/2014WR015643, 2014)

—Jessica Orwig, Writer


Citation: Orwig, J. (2014), A noninvasive way to study groundwater-dependent ecosystems, Eos Trans. AGU, 95(49), 472, doi:10.1002/2014EO490013.

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