, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 141-156

Effects of agriculture and wetland restoration on hydrology, soils, and water quality of a Carolina bay complex

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Abstract

We compared hydrology, soils, and water quality of an agricultural field (AG), a two-year-old restored wetland (RW), and two reference ecosystems (a non-riverine swamp forest (NRSF) and a high pocosin forest (POC)) located at the Barra Farms Regional Wetland Mitigation Bank, a Carolina bay complex in Cumberland County, North Carolina. Our main objectives were to: 1) determine if the RW exhibited hydrology comparable to a reference ecosystem, 2) characterize the soils of the AG, RW, and reference ecosystems, and 3) assess differences in water quality in the surface outflow from the AG, RW, and reference ecosystems. Water table data indicated that the hydrology of the RW has been successfully reestablished as the hydroperiod of the RW closely matched that of the NRSF in 1998 and 1999. Jurisdictional hydrologic success criterion was also met by the RW in both years. To characterize soil properties, soil cores from each ecosystem were analyzed for bulk density (Db), total carbon (Ct), nitrogen (Nt), and phosphorus (Pt), extractable phosphate (PO4w), nitrogen (Nex), and cations (Caex, Mgex, Kex, Naex), as well as pH. Bulk density, Pt, Caex, Mgex, and pH were greatly elevated in the AG and RW compared to the reference ecosystems. Water quality monitoring consisted of measuring soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP), total phosphorus (TP), nitrate + nitrite (NOX), and total nitrogen (TN) concentrations in surface water from the AG, RW, and reference outflows. Outflow concentrations of SRP, TP, and NOX were highest and most variable in the AG, while TN was highest in the reference. This study suggested that while restoration of wetland hydrology has been successful in the short term, alteration of wetland soil properties by agriculture was so intense, that changes due to restoration were not apparent for most soil parameters. Restoration also appeared to provide water quality benefits, as outflow concentrations of SRP, TP, NOX, and TN were lower in the RW than the AG.