Recognizing change in hydrologic functions and pathways due to historical agricultural use – implications to hydrologic assessments and modeling.
Documenting the recovery of hydrologic functions following perturbations is important to addressing issues associated with land use change and ecosystem restoration. Floodplains on the Santee Experimental Forest were used historically for rice-cultivation in the early 1700s; those areas now support bottomland hardwood forests that are typical of the region. Recently acquired LIDAR data for the Santee Experimental Forest was used to delineate remnant historical water management structures within the watersheds. Hydrologic functions and pathways were altered during the agricultural use period, with changes to depressional storage, stream flow and runoff routing. Since the late 1800s the land was left to revert to forests, without direct intervention. The resultant bottomlands, while typical in term of vegetative structure and composition, still have altered hydrologic functions as a result of the historical land use. The application of high resolution LIDAR surface elevation data is expected to improve the basis for modeling and hydrological assessments.