Re-flooding a Historically Drained Wetland Leads to Rapid Sediment Phosphorus Release
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- Kinsman-Costello, L.E., O’Brien, J. & Hamilton, S.K. Ecosystems (2014) 17: 641. doi:10.1007/s10021-014-9748-6
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Wetland restoration provides many benefits, but re-flooding historically drained land can have unintended negative consequences, including phosphorus (P) release from sediments. To investigate the effects of re-flooding on P cycling, this study monitored a restoration in Michigan that back-flooded old drainage ditches and re-flooded former wetland soils. Immediately after re-flooding, previously exposed sediments released substantial amounts of P to the water column. Soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) concentrations in re-flooded areas were as high as 750 μg P l−1. At peak P concentrations, there were about 20 times more SRP and 14 times more total P in the surface water than in the much smaller flooded area that existed before re-flooding. Prolific growth of filamentous algae and duckweed was observed in subsequent summers. Sedimental analyses suggest that most of the P released originated from iron-bound fractions. The highest SRP concentrations occurred during the first year when surface water dissolved oxygen was low (<5.5 mg l−1). Similarly low oxygen in the second year after flooding was not associated with such high P concentrations. After 1 year postflooding, SRP concentrations remained below 50 μg P l−1 (but still high enough to produce eutrophic conditions) until the end of sampling about 15 months after re-flooding. When re-flooding historically drained soils, managers should consider the potential for sediment P release to jeopardize restoration goals and therefore should incorporate longer term monitoring of water quality into restoration plans. Knowledge of sediment P amounts and forms can indicate the potential for P release to overlying water.