Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2017OH532B

Bog HELPR: Bog History, Ecosystem status and Land-use for Peatland Restoration in Ohio

Institute: Ohio
Year Established: 2017 Start Date: 2017-03-01 End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $26,566 Total Non-Federal Funds: $27,397

Principal Investigators: Gwilym Davies, Gil Bohrer

Abstract: Ohio faces significant water resource challenges including the impacts of algal blooms in the Great Lakes and agricultural run-off effects on water quality. Restoration of wetland ecosystems, such as bogs, can play an important role in mitigating the effects of diffuse agricultural pollution and increasing catchment resilience to climate change. Ohio’s bogs are the “canary in the coalmine” for interactions between climate change and human disturbance. Degraded bogs, inclduing those converted to agriculture (e.g. “muck crop” farming), can have significant impacts on water quality. Their restoration could make a significant contribution to sustainable catchment management and conservation. Unfortunately, we currently have little quantitative evidence on the status, history or condition of Ohio’s bogs. Historical ecology has an important role to play in restoration decision making providing important ecological context and a baseline for change. We aim to collate detailed spatial data on the current and historic spatial distribution of peatland bogs in Ohio and combine this with ground survey to assess the relationship between land-use and site ecological condition. A unique aspect of our project is that it has a large spatial coverage and significant temporal scope allowing us to examine changes in bog ecosystems over the last 160 years. Our project will provide baseline data which will inform future site restoration and catchment management planning. Our specific objectives are to: i) use current and historical data sources to map the changing distribution of peat bogs in Ohio; ii) map and quantify variation in broad vegetation composition and structure within and between bogs representing a range of historic management histories; iii) relate variation in vegetation composition to land-use and environmental gradients in soil, weather, and hydro-chemical conditions within and between bogs. Objectives will be achieved through a combination GIS analysis and ground survey. GIS-based scoping will digitize and georeference historic maps and aerial images to asses changes in peat bog cover from the 1900’s to the present. We will also map broad vegetation types and site landscape context based on aerial imagery. In the field we will complete inventories of vegetation composition and use dipwells to assess variation in water table position. Water samples will be extracted to examine hydrochemical gradients and the effects of surrounding land-use. Specific outcomes from our project will include an: i)an inventory of the current status of Ohio’s historic peatland ecosystems including quantification of rates of loss over the last 100 years; ii) map and survey data of Ohio’s bog ecosystems and their conservation status; iii) reports evaluating bog restoration potential and priority areas for protection.