Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016NC209B

Field testing of mesocosm-scale derived nitrate removal models to verify water quality improvement potential of restored coastal forested wetlands

Institute: North Carolina
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-09-01 End Date: 2017-08-31
Total Federal Funds: $7,500 Total Non-Federal Funds: $2,038

Principal Investigators: Michael Burchell, Jalmar Kurki-Fox

Abstract: Much of the wetlands that once covered eastern North Carolina have been drained to enable farming on the highly productive soils. The resulting changes to the local hydrology have negatively impacted the health of adjacent wetland ecosystems, and the nutrient, bacteria, and sediment laden drainage water has degraded important coastal shellfishing waters (Chescheir et al., 1991a; U.S. EPA, 2005). This is particularly true of Hyde County, NC, where significant agricultural drainage water is pumped to the Pamlico Sound. Because agriculture is inexorably linked with the economy and culture of eastern North Carolina, management strategies to improve the quality of coastal waters are not viable if they negatively impact production. As a result, local agencies are hard pressed to develop innovative management strategies that balance the environmental and economic demands of the region. Rerouting drainage water to restored wetlands constructed on less productive farmland is an innovative strategy that reduces the nutrient loading to the estuaries, reduces the quantity of water that is discharged to estuaries, and helps to reestablish historical hydrology to the area, resulting in improved ecosystem function (e.g. Chescheir et al., 1991a), while minimizing impacts to agricultural production.