Journal article

Hydrological Importance and Water Quality Treatment Potential of a Small Freshwater Wetland in the Humid Tropics of Costa Rica

Rapid increases in population and growing food demand are causing widespread deterioration of tropical wetlands globally, and an increased focus on the role and function of these imperiled ecosystems is required. Objectives of this study were to investigate the hydrological dynamics and water quality treatment potential of a small freshwater wetland in the humid tropics of Costa Rica. High-resolution, spatially distributed surface water and meteorological data were combined with a detailed topographical survey to quantify the wetland water balance, hydroperiod, and seasonal variability of wetland area, volume, and residence time. The water balance was dominated by precipitation and outflow, with little contribution from runoff, except during the largest storms. Over 80% of the wetland was flooded continuously; hydroperiods in remaining areas were bi-modal. Small seasonal variations in wetland area, volume, and residence times yielded high and sustained water quality treatment potential. Potential pollutant removal efficiencies were 63.6-99.8% for biological oxygen demand; 60.0-99.8% for total suspended solids; 51.1-98.5% for total nitrogen; and 34.2-99.7% for total phosphorous. The study provides insights into the hydrological functions of this and similar small Central American wetlands and provides a template for extending in-depth hydrological monitoring to other tropical wetland sites.


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