Ecosystems

, Volume 13, Issue 7, pp 1060–1078 | Cite as

The Water Quality Consequences of Restoring Wetland Hydrology to a Large Agricultural Watershed in the Southeastern Coastal Plain

  • Marcelo Ardón
  • Jennifer L. Morse
  • Martin W. Doyle
  • Emily S. Bernhardt
Article

Abstract

To ameliorate local and coastal eutrophication, management agencies are increasingly turning to wetland restoration. A large portion of restoration is occurring in areas that were drained for agriculture. To recover wetland function these areas must be reflooded and disturbances to soils, including high nutrient content due to past fertilizer use, loss of organic matter and soil compaction, must be reversed. Here, we quantified nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) retention and transformation in a unique large-scale (440 ha) restored wetland in the North Carolina coastal plain, the Timberlake Restoration Project (TLRP). For 2 years following restoration, we quantified water and nutrient budgets for this former agricultural field. We anticipated that TLRP would export high concentrations of inorganic P immediately following reflooding, while retaining or transforming inorganic N. In the first 2 years after a return to the precipitation and wind-driven hydrology, TLRP retained or transformed 97% of NO3–N, 32% of TDN, 25% of NH4–N, and 53% of soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) delivered from inflows and precipitation, while exporting 20% more dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), and 13% more total P (inorganic, organic, and particulate P) than inputs. Areal mass retention rates of N and P at TLRP were low compared to other restored wetlands; however, the site efficiently retained pulses of fertilizer NO3–N derived from an upstream farm. This capacity for retaining N pulses indicates that the potential nutrient removal capacity of TLRP is much higher than measured annual rates. Our results illustrate the importance of considering both organic and inorganic forms of N and P when assessing the benefits of wetland restoration. We suggest that for wetland restoration to be an efficient tool in the amelioration of coastal eutrophication a better understanding of the coupled movement of the various forms of N and P is necessary.

Key words

wetland restoration nitrogen phosphorus retention mitigation 

References

  1. Aldous A, McCormick P, Ferguson C, Graham S, Craft C. 2005. Hydrologic regime controls soil phosphorus fluxes in restoration and undisturbed wetlands. Restor Ecol 13:341–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aldous AR, Craft CB, Stevens CJ, Barry MJ, Bach LB. 2007. Soil phosphorus release from a restoration wetland, Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon. Wetlands 27:1025–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allan RP, Soden BJ. 2008. Atmospheric warming and the amplification of precipitation extremes. Science 321:1481–4.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. APHA, American Public Health Association. 1998. Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater. Washington (DC): American Public Health Association.Google Scholar
  5. Army Corps of Engineers. 1997. Umbrella Memorandum of agreement between bank sponsors, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, et al. In: U.S.A.C.o. Ed. Engineers. p 27.Google Scholar
  6. BenDor T, Sholtes J, Doyle MW. 2009. Landscape characteristics of a stream and wetland mitigation banking program. Ecol Appl 19:2078–92.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bennett EM, Carpenter SR, Caraco NF. 2001. Human impact on erodable phosphorus and eutrophication: a global perspective. Bioscience 51:227–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bernhardt ES, Band LE, Walsh CJ, Berke PE. 2008. Understanding, managing, and minimizing urban impacts on surface water nitrogen loading. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1134:61–96.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Braskerud BC. 2002a. Factors affecting nitrogen retention in small constructed wetlands treating agricultural non-point source pollution. Ecol Eng 18:351–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Braskerud BC. 2002b. Factors affecting phosphorus retention in small constructed wetlands treating agricultural non-point source pollution. Ecol Eng 19:41–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bruland GL, Richardson CJ. 2005. Spatial variability of soil properties in created, restored, and paired natural wetlands. Soil Sci Soc Am J 69:273–84.Google Scholar
  12. Carter LJ. 1975. Agriculture—new frontier in coastal North-Carolina. Science 189:271–5.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Chesapeake Bay Program 2000. Chesapeake 2000. http://www.chesapeakebay.net/content/publications/cbp_12081.PDF.
  14. Coveney MF, Stites DL, Lowe EF, Battoe LE, Conrow R. 2002. Nutrient removal from eutrophic lake water by wetland filtration. Ecol Eng 19:141–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Craft CB, Richardson CJ. 1993. Peat accretion and N, P, and organic C accumulation in nutrient-enriched and unenriched Everglades peatlands. Ecol Appl 3:446–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dahl TE. 2006. Status and trends of wetlands in the conterminous United States 1998 to 2004. Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  17. Davidson EA, Swank WT. 1986. Environmental parameters regulating gaseous nitrogen losses from 2 forested ecosystems via nitrification and denitrification. Appl Environ Microbiol 52:1287–92.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Diaz RJ, Rosenberg R. 2008. Spreading dead zones and consequences for marine ecosystems. Science 321:926–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Duff JH, Carpenter KD, Snyder DT, Lee KK, Avanzino RJ, Triska FJ. 2009. Phosphorus and nitrogen legacy in a restoration wetland, Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon. Wetlands 29:735–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Efron B. 1982. The jackknife, the bootstrap, and other resampling plans. Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics CBMS-NSF Monographs 38.Google Scholar
  21. Fink DF, Mitsch WJ. 2004. Seasonal and storm event during nutrient removal by a created wetland in an agricultural watershed. Ecol Eng 23:313–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fink DF, Mitsch WJ. 2007. Hydrology and nutrient biogeochemistry in a created river diversion oxbow wetland. Ecol Eng 30:93–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Genereux DP, Jordan MT, Carbonell D. 2005. A paired-watershed budget study to quantify interbasin groundwater flow in a lowland rain forest, Costa Rica. Water Resour Res 41:W04011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hunt PG, Stone KC, Humenik FJ, Matheny TA, Johnson MH. 1999. In-stream wetland mitigation of nitrogen contamination in a USA coastal plain stream. J Environ Qual 28:249–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Johnston CA. 1991. Sediment and nutrient retention by freshwater wetlands: effects on surface-water quality. Crit Rev Environ Control 21:491–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jordan TE, Whigham DF, Hofmockel KH, Pittek MA. 2003. Nutrient and sediment removal by a restored wetland receiving agricultural runoff. J Environ Qual 32:1534–47.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Kadlec RH. 2006. Free surface wetlands for phosphorus removal: the position of the Everglades Nutrient Removal Project. Ecol Eng 27:361–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kadlec RH. 2009a. Comparison of free water and horizontal subsurface treatment wetlands. Ecol Eng 35:159–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kadlec RH. 2009b. Wastewater treatment at the Houghton Lake wetland: hydrology and water quality. Ecol Eng 35:1287–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Koroleff F. 1983. Simultaneous oxidation of nitrogen and phosphorus compounds by persulfate. In: Grasshoff K, Eberhardt M, Kremling K, Eds. Methods of seawater analysis. New York: Wiley VCH. Google Scholar
  31. Kovacic DA, Twait RM, Wallace MP, Bowling JM. 2006. Use of created wetlands to improve water quality in the Midwest-Lake Bloomington case study. Ecol Eng 28:258–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Likens GE, Bormann FH. 1995. Biogeochemistry of a forested ecosystem. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  33. Mitsch WJ, Gosselink JG. 2007. Wetlands. Hoboken (NJ): Wiley.Google Scholar
  34. Mitsch WJ, Wu XY, Nairn RW, Weihe PE, Wang NM, Deal R, Boucher CE. 1998. Creating and restoring wetlands—a whole-ecosystem experiment in self-design. Bioscience 48:1019–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mitsch WJ, Day JW, Gilliam JW, Groffman PM, Hey DL, Randall GW, Wang NM. 2001. Reducing nitrogen loading to the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River Basin: strategies to counter a persistent ecological problem. Bioscience 51:373–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mitsch WJ, Day JW, Zhang L, Lane RR. 2005. Nitrate-nitrogen retention in wetlands in the Mississippi river basin. Ecol Eng 24:267–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Morse JL. 2010. Farm fields to wetlands: Biogeochemical consequences of re-flooding in coastal plain agricultural lands. Durham: University Program in Ecology. Duke University. p 134.Google Scholar
  38. Moustafa MZ. 1999. Nutrient retention dynamics of the Everglades nutrient removal project. Wetlands 19:689–704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Needham R. 2006. Implementation plan for agricultural restoration at Timberlake farms. Wilmington (NC): Needham Environmental Inc.Google Scholar
  40. Neely H. 2008. Restoring farmland to wetlands: the potential for carbon credits in eastern North Carolina. Durham (NC): Nicholas School of the Environment. Duke University. p 31.Google Scholar
  41. Novak JM, Szogi AA, Stone KC, Watts DW, Johnson MH. 2007. Dissolved phosphorus export from an animal waste impacted in-stream wetland: response to tropical storm and hurricane disturbance. J Environ Qual 36:790–800.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Pant HK, Reddy KR. 2003. Potential internal loading of phosphorus in a wetland constructed in agricultural land. Water Res 37:965–72.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Poe AC, Pichler MF, Thompson SP, Paerl HW. 2003. Denitrification in a constructed wetland receiving agricultural runoff. Wetlands 23:817–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Poulter B, Halpin PN. 2008. Raster modelling of coastal flooding from sea-level rise. Int J Geogr Inf Sci 22:167–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Poulter B, Christensen NL, Halpin PN. 2006. Carbon emissions from a temperate peat fire and its relevance to interannual variability of trace atmospheric greenhouse gases. J Geophysical Res 111:D06301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Poulter B, Goodall JL, Halpin PN. 2008. Applications of network analysis for adaptive management of artificial drainage systems in landscapes vulnerable to sea level rise. J Hydrol 357:207–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Raisin GW, Mitchell DS, Croome RL. 1997. The effectiveness of a small constructed wetland in ameliorating diffuse nutrient loadings from an Australian rural catchment. Ecol Eng 9:19–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Reddy KR, DeLaune RD. 2008. Biogeochemistry of wetlands: science and applications. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Reddy KR, Kadlec RH, Flaig E, Gale PM. 1999. Phosphorus retention in streams and wetlands: a review. Crit Rev Environ Sci Technol 29:83–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Reinelt LE, Horner RR. 1995. Pollutant removal from stormwater runoff by palustrine wetlands based on comprehensive budgets. Ecol Eng 4:77–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Richardson CJ. 1983. Pocosins: vanishing wastelands or valuable wetlands? Bioscience 33:626–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Richardson CJ. 1985. Mechanisms controlling phosphorus retention capacity in freshwater wetlands. Science 228:1424–7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Richardson CJ. 2003. Pocosins: hydrologically isolated or integrated wetlands on the landscape? Wetlands 23:563–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Richardson CJ, Ed. 2008. The Everglades experiments. Lessons for ecosystem restoration. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  55. Royer TV, David MB, Gentry LE. 2006. Timing of riverine export of nitrate and phosphorus from agricultural watersheds in Illinois: implications for reducing nutrient loading to the Mississippi River. Environ Sci Technol 40:4126–31.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Shields CA, Band LE, Law N, Groffman PM, Kaushal SS, Savvas K, Fisher GT, Belt KT. 2008. Streamflow distribution of non-point source nitrogen export from urban-rural catchments in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Water Resources Research 44:W09416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Skaggs RW, Gilliam JW, Sheets TJ. 1980. Effect of agricultural land development on drainage waters in North Carolina Tidewater region. Raleigh (NC): Water Resources Research Institute, University of North Carolina.Google Scholar
  58. State Climate Office of North Carolina. 2009. http://www.nc-climate.ncsu.edu/climate/drought.php.
  59. Stevens CJ, Quinton JN. 2009. Diffuse pollution swapping in arable agricultural systems. Crit Rev Environ Sci Technol 39:478–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stoy PC, Katul GG, Siqueira MBS, Juang JY, Novick KA, McCarthy HR, Oishi AC, Uebelherr JM, Kim HS, Oren R. 2006. Separating the effects of climate and vegetation on evapotranspiration along a successional chronosequence in the southeastern US. Glob Chang Biol 12:2115–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. USFW.U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2009. http://www.fws.gov/PocosinLakes/news/news-erf-out.html
  62. Van Dijk J, Stroetenga M, Bos L, Van Bodegom PM, Verhoef HA, Aerts R. 2004. Restoring natural seepage conditions on former agricultural grasslands does not lead to reduction of organic matter decomposition and soil nutrient dynamics. Biogeochemistry 71:317–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Venterink HO, Davidsson TE, Kiehl K, Leonardson L. 2002. Impact of drying and re-wetting on N, P and K dynamics in a wetland soil. Plant Soil 243:119–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Verhoeven JTA, Arheimer B, Yin CQ, Hefting MM. 2006. Regional and global concerns over wetlands and water quality. Trends Ecol Evol 21:96–103.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Vitousek PM, Aber JD, Howarth RW, Likens GE, Matson PA, Schindler DW, Schlesinger WH, Tilman GD. 1997. Human alteration of the global nitrogen cycle: sources and consequences. Ecol Appl 7:737–50.Google Scholar
  66. Wagner KI, Gallagher SK, Hayes M, Lawrence BA, Zedler JB. 2008. Wetland restoration in the new millennium: do research efforts match opportunities? Restor Ecol 16:367–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Walbridge MR. 1991. Phosphorus availability in acid organic soils of the lower North Carolina coastal plain. Ecology 72:2083–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Weller DE, Mitsch WJ, Hogan DM, Hogan DE. 1994. Denitrification in riparian forests receiving agricultural discharges. In: Mitsch WJ, Ed. Global wetlands; old world and new. Amsterdam: Elsevier. Google Scholar
  69. Wiegner TN, Seitzinger SP. 2004. Seasonal bioavailability of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen from pristine and polluted freshwater wetlands. Limnol Oceanogr 49:1703–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Winter TC. 1981. Uncertainties in estimating water balance of lakes. Water Resour Bull 17:82–115.Google Scholar
  71. Woltemade CJ. 2000. Ability of restored wetlands to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in agricultural drainage water. J Soil Water Conserv 55:303–9.Google Scholar
  72. Zedler JB. 2003. Wetlands at your service: reducing impacts of agriculture at the watershed scale. Front Ecol Environ 1:65–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Zedler JB, Kercher S. 2005. Wetland resources: status, trends, ecosystem services, and restorability. Annu Rev Environ Resour 30:39–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcelo Ardón
    • 1
  • Jennifer L. Morse
    • 1
  • Martin W. Doyle
    • 2
  • Emily S. Bernhardt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA

Personalised recommendations