Development of watershed hydrologic research at Santee Experimental Forest, coastal South Carolina
Managing forested wetland landscapes for water quality improvement and productivity requires a detailed understanding of functional linkages between ecohydrological processes and management practices. Watershed studies are being conducted at USDA Forest Service Santee Experimental Forest, South Carolina, to understand the fundamental hydrologic and biogeochemical processes and their linkages with soils, vegetation, topography, climate, and management practices in the low gradient forested landscapes of the South Carolina Coastal Plain. This study presents an overview of and builds on the long-term watershed hydrologic research begun in 1964 by our predecessors at this experimental forest. Monitoring and modeling studies using a paired watershed approach are being conducted to describe the effects of management practices on two first-order, forested watersheds. Long-term flow data from two 160-ha first-order, one 500-ha second-order, and one 4,500-ha third-order watersheds, provide an opportunity to evaluate the flow dynamics and hydrologic effects of scale, land use distribution, and climate on these coastal watersheds. DRAINMOD-based models are being tested with these data for their applicability as a water management tool on these poorly drained natural forested watersheds. The long-term information on hydro-meteorology, water quality and water table levels from these watersheds has also provided baseline data on the ecohydrologic processes that are useful to researchers, planners, land owners and industries for the assessment of land management and climatic impacts. Such information for poorly drained low gradient coastal watersheds is becoming increasingly important for sustainable development as population pressure and timber demand continue to rise in the southeastern United States.