2013 journal article

The impact of manipulating surface topography on the hydrologic restoration of a forested coastal wetland


By: R. Jarzemsky*, M. Burchell n & R. Evans n

author keywords: Wetland hydrology; Restoration; Microtopography
Source: Web Of Science
Added: August 6, 2018

A wetland, converted to agriculture in the mid-1970s, was restored to re-establish a non-riverine wet hardwood forest community in eastern North Carolina. Three surface techniques were implemented during construction to determine their effect on successfully restoring target wetland hydrology. The surface treatments, replicated within a randomized complete block design, were: plugging field ditches without altering the land surface (PLUG), plugging the field ditches and roughening the surface (ROUGH), and plugging the field ditches and removing the field crown (CR). Hydrologic conditions for the restoration and a nearby reference site were evaluated based on three years of monitoring data. Daily water table depths between the restoration and reference were within 11 cm on average. An initial evaluation found inconsistencies of treatment effect between blocks, and an as-built survey later confirmed surface elevations within Block 3 deviated from the intended design and was excluded from further analysis. Water table and outflow conditions for the remaining treatment plots and the reference were evaluated using several hydrologic criteria. The CR treatment was found to produce the wettest surface conditions and exported the lowest volume of outflow. For the majority of criterion considered, CR also produced significantly wetter conditions than the reference. The PLUG and ROUGH treatments produced similar hydrologic conditions and tracked closely with the median hydrologic conditions in the reference. Based on the results of this study and several others in low lying coastal areas, plugging pre-existing field ditches may be adequate to restore jurisdictional wetland hydrology and match reference hydrologic conditions. However, surface roughening is low cost method to increase surface storage and introduce microtopographic diversity. For many areas, the removal of existing field crown may be cost-prohibitive and produce wetter than desired conditions. Crown removal should be reserved for sites which have borderline historic wetland hydrologic characteristics.