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Groundwater dependent ecosystems

Groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs) are ecosystems which require access to groundwater on a permanent or intermittent basis to meet all or some of their water requirements so as to maintain their communities of plants and animals, ecological processes and ecosystem services[1]. Ecosystem dependency on groundwater may vary temporally (over time) and spatially (depending on its location in the landscape).

GDEs include aquifers, caves, lakes, palustrine wetlands, lacustrine wetlands, rivers and vegetation.

For further information please see the quick links.

Riverine groundwater dependent ecosystems are riverine wetlands which require access to groundwater on a permanent or intermittent basis to meet all or some of their water requirements so as to maintain their communities of plants and animals, ecological processes and ecosystem services. Riverine GDEs have either a gaining or variable gaining/losing groundwater connectivity.

Riverine wetland groundwater dependent ecosystems are riverine wetlands which require access to groundwater on a permanent or intermittent basis to meet all or some of their water requirements so as to maintain their communities of plants and animals, ecological processes and ecosystem services . Riverine wetland GDEs are terrestrial riparian ecosystems dependent on the subsurface presence of groundwater accessed via their roots at depth.

Terrestrial groundwater dependent ecosystems are terrestrial ecosystems which require access to groundwater on a permanent or intermittent basis to meet all or some of their water requirements so as to maintain their communities of plants and animals, ecological processes and ecosystem services. Terrestrial GDEs are terrestrial ecosystems dependent on the subsurface presence of groundwater accessed via their roots at depth. This may be indicated by prolonged vegetation vigour during times of lower surface water availability.

Cave groundwater dependent ecosystems are cave ecosystems which require access to groundwater on a permanent or intermittent basis to meet all or some of their water requirements so as to maintain their communities of plants and animals, ecological processes and ecosystem services. Cave GDEs are caves dependent on the subterranean presence of groundwater. Cave GDEs may be indicated by high moisture levels and/or the presence of stygofauna.

Aquifers are inherently groundwater dependent. Aquifer ecosystems are composed of those species that inhabit the void between sediment grains or in fractures and solution cavities in groundwater systems.

Palustrine groundwater dependent ecosystems are palustrine wetlands which require access to groundwater on a permanent or intermittent basis to meet all or some of their water requirements so as to maintain their communities of plants and animals, ecological processes and ecosystem services. Palustrine GDEs are palustrine wetlands with either a gaining or variable gaining/losing groundwater connectivity.

Lacustrine groundwater dependent ecosystems are lacustrine wetlands which require access to groundwater on a permanent or intermittent basis to meet all or some of their water requirements so as to maintain their communities of plants and animals, ecological processes and ecosystem services. Lacustrine wetland GDEs are lakes with gaining or variable gaining/losing groundwater connectivity which may be indicated by prolonged lake water availability regardless of surface water availability.

Estuarine groundwater dependent ecosystems are estuarine ecosystems which require access to groundwater on a permanent or intermittent basis to meet all or some of their water requirements so as to maintain their communities of plants and animals, ecological processes and ecosystem services. Estuarine GDEs have a gaining or variable gaining/losing groundwater connectivity.

Marine groundwater dependent ecosystems are near-shore marine ecosystems which require access to groundwater on a permanent or intermittent basis to meet all or some of their water requirements so as to maintain their communities of plants and animals, ecological processes and ecosystem services. Marine GDEs are aquatic ecosystems dependent on the submarine discharge of groundwater. Marine GDEs have a gaining or variable gaining/losing groundwater connectivity.

Groundwater plays an important ecological role in directly and indirectly supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Groundwater sustains terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems by supporting vegetation and providing discharge to channels, lacustrine and palustrine wetlands, and both the estuarine and marine environment. Aquifer ecosystems are inherently groundwater dependent.

Groundwater also plays a critical role during extended dry periods in maintaining refuges for flora and fauna.

The conceptual models below provide information on GDE hydrology, geology, flora, fauna and more.

Groundwater dependent ecosystems conceptual models

GDE pictorial conceptual model overview PDF

Applicable to multiple regions

Applicable to specific regions

Applicable to specific local areas

Applicable to specific sites

Other models

Wetland on-line education modules

A series of on-line education modules, including Groundwater dependent ecosystems, has been prepared as a resource for people who want to learn more about wetlands.

You can use these to meet your learning and training needs. This information should be used in conjunction with information found on this website.

Additional information

Pages under this section


References

  1. ^ Richardson, E, Irvine, E, Froend, R, Book, P, Barber, S & Bonneville, B 2011, Australian groundwater dependent ecosystems toolbox part 1: assessment framework, National Water Commission, Canberra.

Last updated: 12 April 2017

This page should be cited as:

Groundwater dependent ecosystems, WetlandInfo 2014, Queensland Government, Queensland, viewed 1 August 2017, <https://wetlandinfo.ehp.qld.gov.au/wetlands/ecology/aquatic-ecosystems-natural/groundwater-dependent/>.

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Heritage Protection