American Memorial Park, a unit of the National Park Service on the Island of Saipan, includes among its features a 27-acre estuarine system that has become a rarity within the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The estuarine system's mosaic of marshy areas interspersed with emergent wetlands and mixed wet forests provides critical habitat for various migratory and resident waterfowl, including two Federally listed endangered species: the Marianas gallinule (Gallinula chloropus guami) and the nightingale reed warbler (Acrocephalus luscinia). With sensitivity to the park's ecologic assets and the uncertainty associated with locally rapid urbanization, a need to better understand the hydrology of American Memorial Park was recognized. To address that need, a reconnaissance study of the park was undertaken during August and September 2005. The goals of the study were (1) to describe the occurrence and salinity of surface and ground water within the park; (2) to develop a hydrologic model of the park area of the island, with emphasis on the 27-acre estuarine system; and (3) to identify additional data needed to further develop this model.
With regard to surface water, three freshwater inputs to the park's natural wetland are possible: direct rainfall, seaward-flowing ground water, and overland flow. Direct rainfall, which is an important source of freshwater to the wetland, commonly exceeds evapotranspiration both seasonally and per storm. The seaward flow of ground water is likely to be a source of freshwater to the wetland because ground water generally has an upward vertical component in the nearshore environment. Overland flow upgradient of the park could potentially contribute a significant input of freshwater during periods of intense rainfall, but roads that flank the park's perimeter act as a barrier to surficial inflows.
During the reconnaissance, four discrete bodies, or zones, of surface water were observed within the park's natural wetland. Conductivity within these surface-water zones typically ranged from 1,540 to 4,370 microsiemens per centimeter (?S/cm) at 25?C, although values as low as 829 and as high as 8,750 ?S/cm were measured. As a result of these observations, the American Memorial Park wetland area meets the definition criteria of an estuarine system that is dominantly oligohaline. Conductivity was also measured in a constructed wetland that was built within the park to augment the storm-drainage infrastructure of the village of Garapan. Reverse-osmosis facilities, in operation at hotels adjacent to the park, have historically discharged highly saline wastewater into the storm-drainage system. This collective storm and wastewater flow is routed into the constructed wetland and from there into the ocean. The conductivity of water in the constructed wetland ranged from 45,000 to 62,500 ?S/cm, exceeding nominal seawater values by as much as 25 percent, with the highest conductivities recorded near discharging storm drains.
With regard to ground water, the reconnaissance included installation of a ground-water-monitoring network. Data collected from this network identified the presence of freshwater underlying the park and indicated that surface water is directly connected to ground water in the natural wetland because the water levels of both surface water and ground water directly varied with the tide. Conductivities of ground-water samples from wells in the monitoring network indicated that ground-water salinity was geographically related: conductivities were lower (801-2,490 ?S/cm) in surficially dry areas, intermediate (6,090-9,180 ?S/cm) in natural-wetland areas, and higher (18,250-27,700 ?S/cm) in areas adjacent to the constructed wetland and its associated ocean-discharge channel.
Synoptic water-level surveys were made to enhance understanding of the spatial expression of the water table; they were scheduled to overlap with peak and trough tidal signals to enable limited characteri