Modeling soil porewater salinity response to drought in tidal freshwater forested wetlands

Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
By: , and 



There is a growing concern about the adverse effects of saltwater intrusion via tidal rivers, streams and creeks into tidal freshwater forested wetlands (TFFW) due to sea‐level rise (SLR) and intense and extended drought events. However, the magnitude and duration of porewater salinity in exceedance of plant salinity stress threshold (2 practical salinity units, psu) and the controlling factors remain unclear. In this study, we developed a TFFW soil porewater salinity model, in which the feedback mechanisms between soil salinity and evapotranspiration and hydraulic conductivity were incorporated. We selected sites (upper, middle, lower tidal freshwater forest sites and oligohaline marsh site) along the coastal floodplains of two rivers, the Waccamaw River (SC, USA) and the Savannah River (GA and SC, USA), that represent landscape salinity gradients from tidal influence of the Atlantic Ocean. The model results agreed well with field measurements and revealed that with drought‐induced saltwater intrusion, the mean annual soil porewater salinity and duration of elevated soil porewater salinity (> 2 psu) increased significantly compared to the normal (non‐drought) condition, posing a threat to the health and ecosystem services of TFFW even in the absence of SLR. Model results also showed more severe salinity stress under drought for the lower forest sites along the two rivers, where soil salinity values have already been at or in exceedance of the 2 psu threshold.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Modeling soil porewater salinity response to drought in tidal freshwater forested wetlands
Series title Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
DOI 10.1029/2018JG004996
Volume 125
Issue 2
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description e2018JG004996, 17 p.
Country United States
State Georgia, South Carolina
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details