SREL Reprint #2657




Application of the EPA wetland research program approach to a floodplain wetland restoration assessment

R. K. Kolka1, C. C. Trettin 2, E. A. Nelson3, C. D. Barton 2, and D. E. Fletcher4

1North Central Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Grand Rapids, MN 55744
2Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Charleston, SC 29414
3Westinghouse Savannah River Technology Center, Aiken, SC 29802
4Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, University of Georgia, Aiken, SC 29802

Abstract: Forested wetland restoration assessment is difficult because of the timeframe necessary for the development of a forest ecosystem. The development of a forested wetland ecosystem includes the recovery of hydrology, soils, vegetation, and faunal communities. To assess forested wetland restoration projects, measures need to be developed that are sensitive to early changes in community development and are predictive of future conditions. In this study we apply the EPA's Weland Research Program's (WRP) approach to assess the recovery of two thermally altered riparian wetland systems in South Carolina. In one of the altered wetland systems, approximately 75% of the wetland was planted with bottomland tree seedlings in an effort to hasten recovery. Individual studies addressing hydrology, soils, vegetation and faunal communities indicate variable recovery responses. Our recovery trajectories indicate that hydrology may take 20-30 years to recover, soil carbon upwards of 60-years and 20-30 years for forest floor processes. Herbaceous vegetation and stream macrophytes appear to take 20-30 years to recover, however, trees take considerably longer. Stream fauna appear to recover in about 20-30 years while bird populations are on 40-60 year recovery trajectory. Based on the current data, it appears that both wetland systems are on a path toward recovery and that site preparation and planting of seedlings has not accelerated the recovery process.

Keywords: Wetland, restoration, asessment, bottomland, riparian. succession, soil, hydrology, vegetation, fauna

SREL Reprint #2657

Kolka, R. K., C. C. Trettin, E. A. Nelson, C. D. Barton, and D. E. Fletcher. 2003. Application of the EPA wetland research program approach to a floodplain wetland restoration assessment. Journal of Environmental Monitoring & Restoration 1:37-51.

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