Turkey Creek—a case study of ecohydrology and integrated watershed management in the low-gradient Atlantic Coastal Plain, USA
Water yield, water supply and quality, wildlife habitat, and ecosystem productivity and services are important societal concerns for natural resource management in the 21st century. Watershed-scale ecohydrologic studies can provide needed context for addressing complex spatial and temporal dynamics of these functions and services. This study was conducted on the 5240 ha Turkey Creek watershed (WS 78) draining a 3rd order stream on the Santee Experimental Forest within the South Carolina Atlantic Coastal Plain, USA. The study objectives were to present the hydrologic characteristics of this relatively undisturbed, except by a hurricane (Hugo, 1989), forested water-shed and to discuss key elements for watershed management, including water resource assessment (WRM), modeling integrated water resources management, environmental assessment, land use planning, social impact assessment, and information management. Runoff coefficients, flow duration curves, flood and low flow frequency curves, surface and ground water yields were assessed as elements of the WRM. Results from the last 10 years of interdisciplinary studies have also advanced the understanding of coastal ecohydrologic characteristics and processes, water balance, and their modeling including the need of high resolution LiDAR data. For example, surface water dynamics were shown to be regulated primarily by the water table, dependent upon pre- cipitation and evapotranspiration (ET). Analysis of pre- and post-Hugo streamflow data showed somewhat lower but insignificant (á = 0.05) mean annual flow but increased frequency of larger flows for the post-Hugo compared with the pre-Hugo level. However, there was no significant difference in mean annual ET, potentially indicating the resiliency of this coastal forest. Although the information from this study may be useful for comparison of coastal ecohydrologic issues, it is becoming increasingly clear that multi-site studies may be warranted to understand these complex systems in the face of climate change, sea level rise, and increasing development in coastal regions.