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Project ID:2006MT105B

Title:: Student fellowship: Water quality function in subalpine wetlands in response to disturbance and restoration

Project Type: Research

Start Date: 03/01/2006

End Date: 06/30/2007

Congressional District: At-large

Focus Categories: Wetlands, Hydrology, Management and Planning

Keywords: wetland function, water quality, disturbance, restoration

Principal Investigator: Patten, Duncan T. (Montana State University)

Federal Funds: $2,000

Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 0

Abstract: Across the globe, wetlands play vital biological and hydrological roles in environments. These valued features support tremendous biological diversity (Gibbs 1993, Mitsch et al 1995), and are used by a large number of species during some portion of their lives, for example, 80% of America's breeding bird population rely on wetlands (Mitsch and Gosselink 1993). Additionally, wetlands function as important filters to capture sediment and excess nutrients that originate in the surrounding uplands or in hydrologically connected riparian areas (NRC 1995, Semlitsch & Bodie 1998). Wetland plants slow water velocities allowing deposition of suspended sediments while the wetland ecosystem removes excess nutrients that result from disturbance, upland activities or exposed geology. In this way, wetlands serve to protect downstream systems from contamination. Major threats to wetland function include direct or indirect disturbance, typically associated with infrastructure, recreational, residential or industrial/agricultural development (Jorgensen & Nauman 1994, Findlay & Houlahan 1997). In subalpine environments, the value of the water quality function of wetlands is further emphasized. Subalpine wetlands function as the first water quality filter for headwater systems. The extreme conditions of subalpine environments indicate that damage to the water quality function of wetlands can be a significant impairment and that recovery of this function can involve multiple years. Subalpine wetlands, most frequently altered by recreational development or resource extraction, face recovery challenges of high UV levels, snow accumulation, shortened growing season, and increased wind exposure. Little is known about factors that may affect the water quality function of subalpine wetlands, especially those that are disturbed, exposed to an adjacent disturbance or that have undergone restoration efforts. The purpose of this study is to investigate the water quality function of altered subalpine wetlands and evaluate recovery of the function over time relative to different types of alteration, restoration and external influencing variables. The objectives are to (a) quantify and compare the water quality function of restored wetlands of various ages, (b) evaluate the water quality function response to different restoration techniques, and (c) assess the relative role of the water quality function of wetlands in response to adjacent upland disturbance located at various distances from the wetland. The value of this study is to attempt to determine if, when, and under what conditions affected wetlands are be able to regain water quality function following direct and adjacent disturbances, and restoration efforts.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Maintained by: John Schefter
Last Updated: Thursday, January 03, 2008
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