Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014MS190B

Responses of water quality and wetland plant communities to multi-scale watershed attributes in the Mississippi Delta

Institute: Mississippi
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $23,834 Total Non-Federal Funds: $49,529

Principal Investigators: Gary Ervin, Robert Kroger

Abstract: This project will provide an assessment of local and landscape factors affecting water quality and wetland function in restored wetlands within the Mississippi portion of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV; simply referred to as the Mississippi Delta, or Delta, hereafter). Restoration of marginal land to wetlands has been promoted through government programs for the past twenty years and is a goal of many private groups. Restorations have focused on restoring functions such as the improvement of water quality and the re-establishment of former wetland vegetative communities. Current results are inconclusive as to the long-term success of these projects in restoring desired functions, but research often shows a sizable portion of wetlands not mirroring characteristics of natural wetlands. This project seeks to understand the influence of local and landscape factors in shaping wetland functions within the MS Delta. An understanding of scale effects on function is both critical and timely for Delta wetlands. Recent efforts aimed at creations or restorations of marginal agricultural lands to wetlands have been sponsored through government and private wetland restoration projects. Unfortunately, the outcomes of these projects in terms of conservation goals are unknown. Moreover, with an annual increase of conservation easements as well as increased demand for agricultural land coupled with the expiration of existing conservation easements, policy decisions are being made without adequate scientific knowledge of the benefits and limitations of these systems. Additionally, with little to no long term monitoring conducted on many sites, the ultimate outcome of restoration efforts is unknown. A better understanding of the influence of local and landscape factors on wetland functions will permit more effective targeting of limited resources towards restoration of sites having characteristics most conducive to successful achievement of the desired wetland services. The data gathered in the proposed project will provide information on the combined effects of local and landscape factors on wetland restoration success. This project will assess restored and natural reference wetlands in 12 different watersheds in the Mississippi Delta. Restored wetlands will be selected through collaboration with landowners enrolled in the United States Department of Agricultures (USDA) wetland reserve program (WRP) across a spectrum of land use and land cover attributes, and reference wetlands will be selected for their proximity to restored sites. Water quality and plant species composition will be measured as local wetland ecological responses to drivers at multiple spatial scales. Water quality entering, within, and leaving the wetlands will be measured during base flow and select storm events to assess wetland function. Wetland plant species will be measured for overall biodiversity and ecological quality twice during the growing season. Potential ecological drivers measured at the local scale will include factors such as wetland hydrology and hydroperiod, wetland size, management history, hydrogeomorphic classification, and wetland soil composition. At a macroscale (watershed scale), we will investigate the role of land cover, land use, and wetland isolation and hydrologic connectivity. Factors examined at an intermediate (meso-) scale will include variables on the immediately surrounding landscape, within approximately 150 m of the wetland boundaries. These factors will include surrounding soil composition, land use, and land cover.