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2008 Harvard Forest REU Student Symposium Abstracts

Jhessye MooreThomas - University of Central Florida

Investigating Water Table Levels Affected by Topography and Clearcut Forest Harvest


Studies pertaining to the movement, quality, and distribution of water are vastly important to peoples’ understanding of groundwater management. Walter Lyford, a soil scientist at the Harvard Forest, bored many groundwater wells (L Wells) in the early 1970s. The L Wells are arrayed along a topographic gradient (~11m change in elevation across 250m), from the headwaters of a stream to an upland area on the Prospect Hill Tract. Three of the wells are within or down-slope from a clear-cut harvest completed in May 2008. I monitored the L Wells to study water table fluctuations throughout the summer 2008 period. Two main research objectives included examining how the water table level is affected by a topographic gradient and how the water table responds to the forest harvest. I expected more variance in water table levels in response to precipitation events in the low to midland areas (5 wells) versus the upland (3 wells). Direct water depth measurements were taken and then the actual water table was calculated. The low and midland wells’ water table increased dramatically over the summer period. Large summer storms and an overall wet July (observed from precipitation records from the Fisher Meterological Station) also resulted in a large, though temporary, groundwater recharge in the upland forested wells. The forest harvest may affect the residence time of the water table after a large precipitation event, but further studies are needed to clarify changes in evapotranspiration in the clear-cut harvest area.

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