Like many wetlands globally, the Mulwaree River chain-of-ponds system exists in two dichotomous states characterised by the presence or absence of surface flow connecting large, deep, permanently inundated ponds. We develop a conceptual model of hydrological function of this chain-of-ponds system combining surface and subsurface water levels, 2H and 18O stable isotopes and 222Rn as a groundwater tracer over a period of time that incorporated extended dry periods and large rainfall events. During high-flow or flood events, ponds are connected by flow along connecting channels and preferential flow paths. The water column is fully mixed to depths of up to 7 m. During high-flow, water level in the ponds can be greater than the water level in the surrounding floodplain aquifer, producing a hydraulic gradient away from the ponds, reflecting a losing wetland system. During no-flow periods, connecting channels and preferential flow paths are dry. A thermocline develops within the ponds and surface waters become enriched in 2H and 18O with evaporation losses. During periods of no-flow, increases in water level beyond atmospheric flux often occur during winter. Only small groundwater inflows enter the ponds from the floodplain aquifer. The hydrological function of this chain-of-ponds system is delicately balanced making it potentially sensitive to changes in climate that alter rainfall and evaporation rates, and any local-scale groundwater interference activities. Efforts to conserve and protect this system, and the aquatic ecosystems it supports, will be critical into the future.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Ali G, Haque A, Basu NB, Badiou P, Wilson H (2017) Groundwater-driven wetland-stream connectivity in the prairie pothole region: inferences based on electrical conductivity data. Wetlands 37:773–785. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-017-0913-5
Geoscience Australia (2015) Goulburn Town LiDAR 5 metre. Commonwealth of Australia (Geoscience Australia), Canberra https://elevation.fsdf.org.au/. doi: 10.4225/25/5652419862E23
Botha GA, Devilliers JM, Vogel JC (1990) Cyclicity of erosion, colluvial sedimentation and palaeosol formation in Quaternary hillslope deposits from northern Natal, South Africa. Palaeoecol Afr Surr Isl 21:195–210
Brierley GJ, Cohen T, Fryirs K, Brooks A (1999) Post-European changes to the fluvial geomorphology of Bega catchment, Australia: implications for river ecology. Freshwat Biol 41:839–848. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2427.1999.00397.x
Bureau of Meteorology (2017) Climate data online. Commonwealth of Australia (Bureau of Meteorology), Canberra. https://www.bom.gov.au/climate/data/
Butzer KW, Helgren DM (2005) Livestock, land cover, and environmental history: the Tablelands of New South Wales, Australia, 1820–1920. Ann Assoc Am Geog 95:80–111. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8306.2005.00451.x
Calhoun AJK, Mushet DM, Bell KP, Boix D, Fitzsimons JA, Isselin-Nondedeu F (2017) Temporary wetlands: challenges and solutions to conserving a ‘disappearing’ ecosystem. Biol Conserv 211:3–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.11.024
Cartwright I, Gilfedder B (2015) Mapping and quantifying groundwater inflows to Deep Creek (Maribyrnong catchment, SE Australia) using 222Rn, implications for protecting groundwater-dependant ecosystems. Appl Geochem 52:118–129. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeochem.2014.11.020
Cartwright I, Morgenstern U (2016) Using tritium to document the mean transit time and sources of water contributing to a chain-of-ponds river system: implications for resource protection. Appl Geochem 75:9–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeochem.2016.10.007
Cattin M-F, Blandenier G, Banašek-Richter C, Bersier L-F (2003) The impact of mowing as a management strategy for wet meadows on spider (Araneae) communities. Biol Conserv 113:179–188. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3207(02)00297-5
Cecil LD, Green JR (2000) Radon-222. In: Cook PG, Herczeg AL (eds) Environmental Tracers in Subsurface Hydrology. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-4557-6_6
Cook PG (2013) Estimating groundwater discharge to rivers from river chemistry surveys. Hydrol Process 27:3694–3707. https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.9493
Cook PG, Böhlke J-K (2000) Determining Timescales for Groundwater Flow and Solute Transport. In: Cook PG, Herczeg AL (eds) Environmental Tracers in Subsurface Hydrology. Springer US, Boston, MA, pp 1–30. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4615-4557-6_1
Cowley KL, Fryirs KA, Hose GC (2016) Identifying key sedimentary indicators of geomorphic structure and function of upland swamps in the Blue Mountains for use in condition assessment and monitoring. CATENA 147:564–577. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2016.08.016
Doody TM, Barron OV, Dowsley K, Emelyanova I, Fawcett J, Overton IC, Pritchard JL, Van Dijk AIJM, Warren G (2017) Continental mapping of groundwater dependent ecosystems: a methodological framework to integrate diverse data and expert opinion. J Hydrol Region Stud 10:61–81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejrh.2017.01.003
Dowdy A, Abbs D, Bhend J, Chiew F, Church J, Ekström M, Kirono D, Lenton A, Lucas C, McInnes K (2015) East Coast Cluster Report. In: Ekström M, Whetton P, Gerbing C, Grose M, Webb L, Risbey J (eds) Climate change in Australia projections for Australia's natural resource management regions: Cluster reports. CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology, Australia, https://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/en/publications-library/cluster-reports/. Accessed 20 June 2017.
Erskine WD, Melville MD (2008) Geomorphic and stratigraphic complexity: holocene alluvial history of upper Wollombi Brook, Australia. Geogr Ann: Ser A, Phys Geogr 90:19–35. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0459.2008.00331.x
Evans M, Warburton J (2007) Geomorphology of Upland Peat: erosion, form and landscape change. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester. doi: 10.1002/9780470798003.ch1
Eyles RJ (1977) Birchams Creek: the transition from a chain of ponds to a gully. Aust Geogr Stud 15:146–157. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8470.1977.tb00094.x
Ferone JM, Devito KJ (2004) Shallow groundwater–surface water interactions in pond–peatland complexes along a Boreal Plains topographic gradient. J Hydrol 292:75–95. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2003.12.032
Fetter CW (2000) Applied hydrogeology. Prentice hall, Upper Saddle River
Fryirs K, Brierley G (1998) The character and age structure of valley fills in upper Wolumla Creek catchment, south coast, New South Wales, Australia. Earth Surf Process Landforms 23:271–287. https://doi.org/10.1002/(sici)1096-9837(199803)23:3<271:aid-esp867>3.0.co;2-5
Fryirs K, Gough J, Hose GC (2014) The geomorphic character and hydrological function of an upland swamp, Budderoo plateau, southern highlands, NSW, Australia. Phys Geogr 35:313–334. https://doi.org/10.1080/02723646.2014.890092
Fryirs KA, Brierley GJ, Hancock F, Cohen TJ, Brooks AP, Reinfelds I, Cook N, Raine A (2018) Tracking geomorphic recovery in process-based river management. Land Degrad Dev 29:3221–3244. https://doi.org/10.1002/ldr.2984
Gat JR, Gonfiantini R (1981) Stable isotope hydrology Deuterium and oxygen-18 in the water cycle vol Technical reports series; no. 210. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Vienna, https://inis.iaea.org/search/search.aspx?orig_q=RN:13677657
Gilvear DJ, Bradley C (2009) Hydrological Dynamics II: groundwater and hydrological connectivity. In: Maltby E, Barker T (eds) The Wetlands Handbook. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. doi: 10.1002/9781444315813.ch7
Gore AJP (1983) Mires: swamp, bog, fen, and moor. In: Gore AJP (ed) Ecosystems of the world 4A. Elsevier, Amsterdam, p 440
Grose M, Abbs D, Bhend J, Chiew F, Church J, Ekström M, Kirono D, Lenton A, Lucas C, McInnes K (2015) Southern Slopes Cluster Report. In: Ekström M, Whetton P, Gerbing C, Grose M, Webb L, Risbey J (eds) Climate change in Australia projections for Australia’s natural resource management regions: Cluster reports. CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology, Australia, https://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/en/publications-library/cluster-reports/. Accessed 20 June 2017.
Hancock F, Fryirs K, Healy M, Raine A (2018) Towards identifying geomorphic rarity and vulnerability use of River Styles in high ecological value aquatic ecosystems. In: Vietz GJ, Rutherfurd ID (eds) Proceedings of the 9th Australian Stream Management Conference, 12–15 August, Hobart, Tasmania, 2018. River Basin Management Society, Melbourne, Victoria, pp 705–712
Hardwick L (2019) Functional ecological processes in upland swamps and chain of ponds systems in the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia. PhD thesis, Macquarie University.
Hazell D, Osborne W, Lindenmayer D (2003) Impact of post-European stream change on frog habitat: southeastern Australia. Biodivers Conserv 12:301–320. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021999518939
Hughes CE, Crawford J (2013) Spatial and temporal variation in precipitation isotopes in the Sydney Basin, Australia. J Hydrol 489:42–55. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2013.02.036
Minitab Inc. (2014) Minitab 17 Statistical Software. (www.minitab.com), State College, PA
Jacobson G, Abell RS, Jankowski J (1991) Groundwater and surface water interaction at Lake George, New South Wales. BMR J Aust Geol Geoph 12:161–190 https://data.gov.au/dataset/6f36d659-f96b-4341-92d2-495109f0e5b8
Jasechko S, Birks SJ, Gleeson T, Wada Y, Fawcett PJ, Sharp ZD, McDonnell JJ, Welker JM (2014) The pronounced seasonality of global groundwater recharge. Water Resour Res 50:8845–8867. https://doi.org/10.1002/2014WR015809
Johnston P, Brierley G (2006) Late quaternary river evolution of floodplain pockets along Mulloon Creek, New South Wales, Australia. The Holocene 16:661–674. https://doi.org/10.1191/0959683606hl962rp
Jolly ID, McEwan KL, Holland KL (2008) A review of groundwater–surface water interactions in arid/semi-arid wetlands and the consequences of salinity for wetland ecology. Ecohydrology 1:43–58. https://doi.org/10.1002/eco.6
Kerstel E, Gianfrani L (2008) Advances in laser-based isotope ratio measurements: selected applications. Appl Phys B 92:439–449. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00340-008-3128-x
Leaney FW, Herczeg AL (2006) A rapid field extraction method for determination of radon-222 in natural waters by liquid scintillation counting. Limnol Oceanogr Methods 4:254–259. https://doi.org/10.4319/lom.2006.4.254
Lis G, Wassenaar LI, Hendry MJ (2008) High-precision laser spectroscopy D/H and 18O/16O measurements of microliter natural water samples. Anal Chem 80:287–293. https://doi.org/10.1021/ac701716q
Mäckel R (1973) Dambos: a study in morphodynamic activity on the plateau regions of Zambia. CATENA 1:327–365. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0341-8162(73)80018-9
Mactaggart B, Bauer J, Goldney D (2007) When History May Lead us Astray: using historical documents to reconstruct swampy meadows/chains of ponds in the New South Wales Central Tablelands, Australia. Aust Geogr 38:233–252. https://doi.org/10.1080/00049180701392782
Mactaggart B, Bauer J, Goldney D, Rawson A (2008) Problems in naming and defining the swampy meadow—An Australian perspective. J Environ Manage 87:461–473. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2007.01.030
Mould S, Fryirs K (2017) The Holocene evolution and geomorphology of a chain of ponds, southeast Australia: Establishing a physical template for river management. CATENA 149:349–362. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2016.10.012
Nash CS, Selker JS, Grant GE, Lewis SL, Noël P (2018) A physical framework for evaluating net effects of wet meadow restoration on late-summer streamflow. Ecohydrology 11:e1953. https://doi.org/10.1002/eco.1953
Nelson ST, Dettman D (2001) Improving hydrogen isotope ratio measurements for on-line chromium reduction systems. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 15:2301–2306. https://doi.org/10.1002/rcm.508
Polvi LE, Wohl E (2012) The beaver meadow complex revisited—the role of beavers in post-glacial floodplain development. Earth Surf Process Landforms 37:332–346. https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.2261
Prosser IP (1991) A comparison of past and present episodes of gully erosion at Wangrah Creek, Southern Tablelands, New South Wales. Aust Geogr Stud 29:139–154. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8470.1991.tb00711.x
Prosser IP, Chappell J, Gillespie R (1994) Holocene valley aggradation and gully erosion in headwater catchments, south-eastern highlands of Australia. Earth Surf Process Landforms 19:465–480. https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.3290190507
Ralph TJ, Hesse PP (2010) Downstream hydrogeomorphic changes along the Macquarie River, southeastern Australia, leading to channel breakdown and floodplain wetlands. Geomorphology 118:48–64. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geomorph.2009.12.007
Rosenberry DO, Winter TC (1997) Dynamics of water-table fluctuations in an upland between two prairie-pothole wetlands in North Dakota. J Hydrol 191:266–289. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0022-1694(96)03050-8
Rustomji P, Pietsch T (2007) Alluvial sedimentation rates from southeastern Australia indicate post-European settlement landscape recovery. Geomorphology 90:73–90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geomorph.2007.01.009
Rustomji P, Pietsch TJ, Wilkinson S (2006) Pre and post-European settlement patterns of floodplain deposition in the Lake Burragorang catchment. CSIRO land and water science report 38/06, Canberra
Schmidt A, Schubert M (2007) Using radon-222 for tracing groundwater discharge into an open-pit lignite mining lake: a case study. Isotopes Environ Health Stud 43:387–400. https://doi.org/10.1080/10256010701705419
Schmidt NM, Olsen H, Bildsøe M, Sluydts V, Leirs H (2005) Effects of grazing intensity on small mammal population ecology in wet meadows. Basic Appl Ecol 6:57–66. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.baae.2004.09.009
Seth B, Schneider C, Storck F (2006) Improved reliability of oxygen isotopic analysis of water using the Finnigan GasBench II periphery of a continuous flow isotope ratio mass spectrometer by backflushing of the sampling line. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 20:1049–1051. https://doi.org/10.1002/rcm.2406
Shah N, Nachabe M, Ross M (2007) Extinction depth and evapotranspiration from ground water under selected land covers. Ground Water 45:329–338. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-6584.2007.00302.x
Shaw DA, Vanderkamp G, Conly FM, Pietroniro A, Martz L (2012) The fill-spill hydrology of Prairie wetland complexes during drought and deluge. Hydrol Processes 26:3147–3156. https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.8390
Sophocleous M (2002) Interactions between groundwater and surface water: the state of the science. Hydrogeol J 10:52–67. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10040-001-0170-8
Taylor MP, Ives CD, Davies PJ, Stokes R (2011) Troubled waters—an examination of the disconnect between river science and law. Environ Sci Technol 45:8178–8179. https://doi.org/10.1021/es202982g
Thomas OD, Pogson DJ (2012) 1:250,000 Geological series, explanatory notes Goulburn sheet SI55-12. Geological Survey of New South Wales, Maitland
Tiner RW (2003) Geographically isolated wetlands of the United States. Wetlands 23:494–516. https://doi.org/10.1672/0277-5212(2003)023[0494:GIWOTU]2.0.CO;2
Tuckfield CG (1986) A study of dells in the new forest, Hampshire, England. Earth Surf Processes Landforms 11:23–40. https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.3290110105
Uys MC, O'Keeffe JH (1997) Simple words and fuzzy zones: early directions for temporary river research in South Africa. Environ Manage 21:517–531. https://doi.org/10.1007/s002679900047
van der Kamp G, Hayashi M, Bedard-Haughn A, Pennock D (2016) Prairie Pothole Wetlands—suggestions for practical and objective definitions and terminology. Wetlands 36:229–235. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-016-0809-9
von der Heyden CJ (2004) The hydrology and hydrogeology of dambos: a review. Prog Phys Geog 28:544–564. https://doi.org/10.1191/0309133304pp424oa
Wasson RJ, Mazari RK, Starr B, Clifton G (1998) The recent history of erosion and sedimentation on the Southern Tablelands of southeastern Australia: sediment flux dominated by channel incision. Geomorphology 24:291–308. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0169-555X(98)00019-1
NSW Water (2017) Mulwaree River water level and discharge, The Towers gauging station. NSW Water, Paramatta
Wegener P, Covino T, Wohl E (2017) Beaver-mediated lateral hydrologic connectivity, fluvial carbon and nutrient flux, and aquatic ecosystem metabolism. Water Resour Res 53:4606–4623. https://doi.org/10.1002/2016WR019790
Williams RT, Fryirs KA (2020) The morphology and geomorphic evolution of a large chain-of-ponds river system. Earth Surf Process Landforms. https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.4842
Winter TC, LaBaugh JW (2003) Hydrologic considerations in defining isolated wetlands. Wetlands 23:532. https://doi.org/10.1672/0277-5212(2003)023[0532:HCIDIW]2.0.CO;2
Winter TC, Rosenberry DO (1995) The interaction of ground water with prairie pothole wetlands in the Cottonwood Lake area, east-central North Dakota, 1979–1990. Wetlands 15:193–211. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03160700
Wood EF, Sivapalan M, Beven K (1990) Similarity and scale in catchment storm response. Rev Geophys 28:1–18. https://doi.org/10.1029/RG028i001p00001
Young ARM (1986a) The geomorphic development of dells (upland swamps) on the Woronora Plateau, N.S.W. Australia Z Geomorphol 30:317–327
Young ARM (1986b) Quaternary sedimentation on the Woronora Plateau and its implications for climatic change. Aust Geogr 17:1–5. https://doi.org/10.1080/00049188608702893
Zavadil E, Ivezich M (2011) Perry River geomorphic study and stability assessment. Report P110068_R01 by Alluvium for the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, Victoria.
Zierholz C, Prosser IP, Fogarty PJ, Rustomji P (2001) In-stream wetlands and their significance for channel filling and the catchment sediment budget, Jugiong Creek, New South Wales. Geomorphology 38:221–235. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0169-555X(00)00092-1
This project was supported by an Australian Research Council Linkage grant (LP130100120) to KF and GH. The industry partner is NSW Local Land Services. RW held an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) and an AINSE Postgraduate Award (9201401114), and received Higher Degree Research support from Macquarie University. Thank you to Cath Hughes, Suzanne Hollins, Barbora Gallagher and Robert Chisari from Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) for their support with stable isotope and Radon analysis. We would also like to thank Randolph Griffiths and Amanda Carter for access to their property ‘Kelburn’ and Peyton Lisenby, Kirsten Cowley, Adam Wilkins, Elizabeth Lisenby, Simon Mould, Luke Stone and Tim Ralph for assistance with fieldwork. We thank two anonymous reviewers and the Editor in Chief for their review comments.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Williams, R.T., Fryirs, K.A. & Hose, G.C. The hydrological function of a large chain-of-ponds: a wetland system with intermittent surface flows. Aquat Sci 82, 61 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00027-020-00735-x
- Discontinuous watercourse
- Temporary wetland
- Hydrological function
- Geographically isolated wetland