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Five Centuries of Groundwater Elevations Provide Evidence of Shifting Climate Drivers and Human Influences on Water Resources in North Central Florida
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  • Evan Reed Larson,
  • Tom Mirti,
  • Thomas Wilding,
  • Chris A Underwood
Evan Reed Larson
University of Wisconsin-Platteville

Corresponding Author:larsonev@uwplatt.edu

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Tom Mirti
Suwannee River Water Management District
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Thomas Wilding
Nicolet Area Technical College
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Chris A Underwood
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
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Groundwater depletion is a concern around the world with implications for food security, ecological resilience, and human conflict. Long-term perspectives provided by tree ring-based reconstructions can improve understanding of factors driving variability in groundwater elevations, but such reconstructions are rare to date. Here, we report a set of new 546-year tree-ring chronologies developed from living and remnant longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) trees that, when combined with existing bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) tree-ring chronologies, were used to create a set of nested reconstructions of mean annual groundwater elevation for North Central Florida that together explain 63% of the variance in instrumental measurements and span 1498–2015. Split calibration confirms the skill of the reconstructions, but coefficient of efficiency metrics and significant autocorrelation in the regression residuals indicate a weakening relationship between tree growth and groundwater elevation over recent decades. Comparison to data from a nearby groundwater well suggests extraction of groundwater is likely contributing to this weakening signal. Periodicity within the reconstruction and comparison with global sea surface temperatures highlight the role of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in driving groundwater elevations, but the strength of this role varies substantially over time. Atlantic and Pacific sea surface temperatures modulate ENSO influences, and comparisons to multiple proxy-based reconstructions indicate an inconsistent and weaker influence of ENSO prior to the 1800s. Our results highlight the dynamic influence of ocean-atmospheric phenomena on groundwater resources in North Central Florida and build on instrumental records to better depict the long-term range of groundwater elevations.