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South Atlantic Water Science Center - Georgia

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Small Watershed Studies at the Panola Mountain Research Watershed

Project Number: 2503-0021S
Project Chief: Jake Peters
Cooperator: Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Year started: 1985
Funding: Water, Energy and Biogeochemical Budgets Project of the U.S. Geological Survey's Global Change Program; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; National Science Foundation; United Kingdom National Environmental Research Council


Watersheds are composed of chemically distinct environments. Consequently, a mechanistic determination of streamwater chemistry requires an understanding of the hydrologic pathways to the stream in the watershed as well as the interactions between the soil and water. The combination indicates that to understand streamwater chemistry, it is important to understand soil-solution chemistry. Yet, the regulation of soil-solution chemistry is poorly understood because, in part, the principles of thermodynamics governing solubility and the theory of ion exchange, absorption, and kinetics cannot be readily applied to complex natural systems.

Research is conducted at the Panola Mountain Research Watershed, a 41-hectare forested watershed in the Panola Mountain State Park. Intensive (or event-based) and extensive characterizations determine the physics and chemistry of soil and water at both the plot (10- to 100-meter2 area), and sub-catchment (4- to 20-hectare area) scales. Extensive characterizations focus on spatial distributions of physical and chemical characteristics of soils and water in plots distributed throughout the watershed.


  • To investigate processes that control the movement and solute composition of water along hydrologic pathways that produce streamflow in a forested Piedmont watershed;
  • determine relative contributions from a variety of sources of solutes observed in streamwater, including primary mineral weathering, cation exchange, and atmospheric deposition (both wet and dry deposition);
  • and investigate biogeochemical processes controlling the regulation of soil-solution chemistry and element cycling.


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