Although springs have been recognized as important, rare, and globally threatened ecosystems, there is as yet no consistent and comprehensive classification system or common lexicon for springs. In this paper, 12 spheres of discharge of springs are defined, sketched, displayed with photographs, and described relative to their hydrogeology of occurrence, and the microhabitats and ecosystems they support. A few of the spheres of discharge have been previously recognized and used by hydrogeologists for over 80 years, but others have only recently been defined geomorphologically. A comparison of these spheres of discharge to classification systems for wetlands, groundwater dependent ecosystems, karst hydrogeology, running waters, and other systems is provided. With a common lexicon for springs, hydrogeologists can provide more consistent guidance for springs ecosystem conservation, management, and restoration. As additional comprehensive inventories of the physical, biological, and cultural characteristics are conducted and analyzed, it will eventually be possible to associate spheres of discharge with discrete vegetation and aquatic invertebrate assemblages, and better understand the habitat requirements of rare or unique springs species. Given the elevated productivity and biodiversity of springs, and their highly threatened status, identification of geomorphic similarities among spring types is essential for conservation of these important ecosystems.
- General hydrogeology
- Springs classification
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Water Science and Technology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)