State Water Resources Research Institute Program


Project ID: 2012DC135B
Title: Biological Inventory of Seepage Springs and Vernal Pools; Small Isolated Wetlands in Parks of National Capital East (NPS)
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2012
End Date: 2/28/2013
Congressional District: DC
Focus Categories: Ecology, Wetlands, Conservation
Keywords: Biotic Inventory, Isolated Wetlands, Seepage Springs, Vernal Pools
Principal Investigator: Culver, David
Federal Funds: $ 12,224
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 25,500
Abstract: Seepage springs are groundwater fed springs with a diffuse discharge of water, when the flow cannot be immediately observed but the land surface is wet compared to the surrounding area (Kresic 2010). Vernal pools are shallow pools that fill seasonally from precipitation (Zedler 2003). Both are small, isolated wetlands that typically disappear during summer months, although some seepage springs persist year round. Both harbor a distinct fauna. In the case of vernal pools, it is a fauna adapted to seasonal drying and reduced oxygen (Wiggins, McKay and Smith 1980,, Mitsch and Gosselink 2007); in the case of seepage springs it is a fauna adapted to life in total darkness (Culver and Pipan 2011). While amphibians are the best known inhabitants of vernal ponds, a number of invertebrates, including Notostraca (Crustacea) and water mites are vernal pools specialists (Ganguly and Smock 2010). The fauna of seepage springs is dominated by blind, depigmented amphipods and isopods, and is especially interesting in the Washington, D.C. area because it is both very diverse and has rare species, including Hay's amphipod, on the U.S. Endangered Species List.

While the difference between vernal pools and seepage springs is easy to describe, in practice they can be hard to distinguish, and in fact some small isolated wetlands may have faunal components of each, as was the case for some small intermittent ponds in Slovenia (Pipan 2005). We propose to do an exhaustive census of the parks that comprise National Capital East (Anacostia Park, Oxon Run Parkway, Fort Stanton Park, and others), describing the location of each, basic physical-chemical characteristics (hydroperiod, pH, conductivity, O2 concentration, temperature, and NO3- concentration). Invertebrate fauna will be collected using hand sampling for 30 person minutes at each site at a minimum of four visits per site. NPS personnel will assist in providing GPS coordinates of sites as well as detailed maps of areas to be sampled. Except for NO3-, measurements will be taken using YSI 556 Multi Probe System. Collections will be taken to the laboratory and further identification. We propose to test the following hypotheses:

  1. Water bodies with fauna characteristic of vernal pools will have higher pH, lower conductivity, lower NO3-, and lower O2 concentrations based on reports in the literature and the difference between rain water and groundwater (e.g., Culver and Chesnut xxxx, Ganguly and Smock 2010).
  2. Some isolated wetlands, especially larger ones (>1 m2) will have fauna characteristic of both vernal pools and seepage springs, and with intermediate physical-chemical features.
  3. Species of conservation interest will be discovered.

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