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Multi-Element Composition of Prairie Pothole Wetland Soils along Depth Profiles Reflects Past Disturbance to a Depth of at Least one Meter


Wetlands are influenced by direct disturbances due to agricultural practices, as well as by indirect effects from the surrounding landscapes. Management and restoration require condition assessments, which are usually based on properties of the vegetation and soils near the surface. Less knowledge exists about the effects of disturbance deeper down the soil profile. In this study, multi-element analysis along soil profiles was used to assess changes due to past disturbances. Soil cores were obtained from undisturbed and disturbed Prairie Pothole wetlands in North Dakota, USA. The objectives were to: 1) assess the vertical variation in multi-element composition of wetlands soils, 2) interpret the differences between undisturbed and disturbed wetlands, and 3) determine the relationships between the environmental variables and multi-element concentrations. We expected that data on concentrations of elements, in addition to ‘classical’ assessments (organic matter, particle size distributions, profile descriptions), would provide more detailed information about the depth to which past disturbance could be detected. Classical methods of assessment of disturbance identified impacts down to 60 cm depth, but the concentrations of Ca, Ba, Sr, Nb, La, Pr, Tb, Bi, Tl and Th showed that differences due to past disturbances persist to a depth of at least one meter.

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Funding for this research was by NIH Grant Number P20RR016471 from INBRE Program of National Institute of General Medical Sciences and grants from EPA/ND Department of Health (EPA/ND Department of Health Wetland Program Development Grant, National Center for Research Resources (5P20RR016471-1), Wetland Foundation, ND College of Science and Mathematics, NDSU Biological Sciences, NDSU Graduate School, and the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station (Project FARG008572). We thank Dr. Shawn DeKeyser and Dr. Christina Hargiss for identifying the site locations, Joel Bell, Hannah Erdmann and 30 undergraduate students for their help with sample processing, and Dr. La Toya Kissoon for guidance on statistical analysis.

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Correspondence to Marinus L. Otte.

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Werkmeister, C., Jacob, D.L., Cihacek, L. et al. Multi-Element Composition of Prairie Pothole Wetland Soils along Depth Profiles Reflects Past Disturbance to a Depth of at Least one Meter. Wetlands 38, 1245–1258 (2018).

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  • Prairie Pothole Region
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Metals
  • Agriculture
  • Landscape