The commonly used phrase “wetland hydrology” should be considered shorthand for hydrology, as it relates to wetlands. Hillslope hydrology is a subbranch of hydrology devoted to describing and explaining how water moves through the terrestrial landscape into surface waters. It encompasses interception, infiltration, Horton overland flow, interflow, percolation, evapotranspiration, groundwater flow, and variable source area runoff. The principles and processes of hydrology can be applied to uplands, wetlands, streams, lakes, and groundwater. This chapter presents basic principles of hydrology that can be applied to understand and explain annual, seasonal, and daily water level dynamics (the hydropattern or hydroperiod) of wetlands, and to illuminate physical and chemical water quality processes occurring in wetlands. The hydroperiod of a wetland is one of the dominant controls on wetland plant and animal communities, as well as on primary productivity and decomposition. Hydroperiod is a statistically ill-defined term that refers to the general seasonal pattern of surface inundation depth. Classification or description of wetlands by hydropattern has become a common framework from which to explore and explain wetland ecology.
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