The hydrology of wetlands located in urban landscapes is likely to be affected by the numerous effects of urban development on the water cycle. Although urbanization is affecting an increasingly large amount of wetland area, there have been few studies documenting hydrologic patterns in such wetlands. We have studied a set of 21 forested wetlands distributed through northeastern New Jersey, USA, a region characterized by dense residential and commercial development. The sites varied widely in area (6–500 ha), and all were bordered by urban land uses. In ten sites, water levels were monitored for 2.5 yr in shallow wells and piezometers; in all sites, qualitative indicators of hydrology, vegetation, and soil indicators of wetland hydrology were sampled. The sites were placed in five hydrogeomorphic (HGM) classes (depression, slope, riverine, mineral flats, and mineral flat-riverine) and also in three qualitative classes of hydrologic disturbance (low, medium, and high). We examined water-level dynamics, variability, the occurrence of discharge/recharge conditions, and the frequency of occurrence of hydrologic indicators across both HGM and disturbance classifications. Qualitative indicators of hydrology did not reveal differences in hydrology that were apparent from the quantitative data, the soils, and the vegetation. Mineral flat-riverine sites were the most wet, and the riverine sites the most dry, but hydrologic disturbance tended to blur distinctions among HGM classes by creating relatively dry conditions in most site types. Sites with a high level of hydrologic disturbance also tended to be more “flashy,” regardless of HGM class. We conclude that the utility of HGM classifications and qualitative indicators of hydrology in urban/suburban landscapes are limited by the high degree of variability in both the extent and particularly the sources of hydrologic disturbance. We conclude that the hydrology of wetlands in an urban region reflects not only the hydrogeomorphic setting but also the unique set of disturbances from current and historical land-uses found at each site.
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Vol. 23 • No. 4