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Determination of recharge areas that supply decades old groundwater to creeks inhabited by the threatened Okaloosa darter

April 25, 2022

The Okaloosa darter (Etheostoma okaloosae) is a diminutive, perch-like, benthic fish that inhabits only six small, clear, and shallow creek systems that flow almost entirely within Eglin Air Force Base in the panhandle of northwest Florida. Listed as Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 1973, improvements in erosion control and habitat restoration led to the Okaloosa darter being downlisted from Endangered to Threatened in 2011. However, the long-term management of the species is hampered by the lack of knowledge of the spatial extent of the recharge areas that ultimately support creek flow through groundwater discharge. To address this lack of data, we collected groundwater samples from the sand and gravel aquifer beneath 11 headwater and 11 downgradient sites across six creek basins during February and December 2020. The groundwater samples were collected from 1 to 1.2 m beneath the creek bottom. Concentrations of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) were analyzed and used to calculate groundwater age (residence time), and indicated that at the 11 headwater sites, recharge occurred between 11 and 28 years ago. Groundwater ages in downgradient parts of the same creeks indicated that recharge occurred between 5 and 25 years ago. When combined with representative values of hydraulic conductivity for the sand and gravel aquifer, the ages reveal that the extent of the maximum recharge distance from the sampling sites ranged from about 222 to 2011 m from the creeks. This new information can be used by natural resource managers as additional evidence to support the USFWS Recovery Plan and proposed delisting of the Okaloosa darter from the Endangered Species List. Moreover, these results may also be useful to fisheries biologists to incorporate groundwater inputs to facilitate fisheries management.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Determination of recharge areas that supply decades old groundwater to creeks inhabited by the threatened Okaloosa darter
DOI 10.3390/hydrology9050069
Authors James E. Landmeyer, W. Scott McBride, William B. Tate
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Hydrology
Series Number
Index ID 70231904
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization South Atlantic Water Science Center