Until recently, there has been no consistent and comprehensive classification system or common lexicon for springs. Springer and Stevens (2008) defined 12 spheres of discharge, describing their hydrogeology of occurrence, and the microhabitats and ecosystems they support. A few of the spheres of discharge had been previously recognized and used by hydrogeologists for over 80 years, but others had only recently been defined geomorphologically. Springer and Stevens provided a comparison of these spheres of discharge to classification systems for wetlands, groundwater dependent ecosystems, karst hydrogeology, running waters, and other systems. With a common lexicon for springs, hydrogeologists can offer 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.
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Springer, A.E. and L.E. Stevens. 2008. Spheres of discharge of springs. Hydrogeology Journal DOI 10.1007/s10040-008-0341-y.