Wetlands that are not connected by streams to other surface-water bodies are considered to be isolated. Although the definition is based on surface-water connections to other water bodies, isolated wetlands commonly are integral parts of extensive ground-water flow systems, and isolated wetlands can spill over their surface divides into adjacent surface-water bodies during periods of abundant precipitation and high water levels. Thus, characteristics of ground-water flow and atmospheric-water flow affect the isolation of wetlands. In general, the degree that isolated wetlands are connected through the ground-water system to other surface-water bodies depends to a large extent on the rate that ground water moves and the rate that hydrologic stresses can be transmitted through the ground-water system. Water that seeps from an isolated wetland into a gravel aquifer can travel many kilometers through the ground-water system in one year. In contrast, water that seeps from an isolated wetland into a clayey or silty substrate may travel less than one meter in one year. For wetlands that can spill over their surface watersheds during periods of wet climate conditions, their isolation is related to the height to a spill elevation above normal wetland water level and the recurrence interval of various magnitudes of precipitation. The concepts presented in this paper indicate that the entire hydrologic system needs to be considered in establishing a definition of hydrologic isolation.
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Hydrologic considerations in defining isolated wetlands