Soil Genesis and Vegetation Response to Amendments and Microtopography in Two Virginia Coastal Plain Created Wetlands
Ott, Emily Thomas
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Wetlands serve important ecosystem functions such as carbon sequestration but are often affected by disturbances like urban development, agriculture, and road building. For wetlands created to mitigate losses, it is important that the ecosystem functions successfully replicate those of natural wetlands. Created wetlands have frequently not provided these functions due to issues including low organic carbon (OC), high soil bulk density (BD), lost topsoil, incorrect hydrology, and failure of targeted vegetation establishment. Organic matter (OM) amendments help created wetlands attain these functions quicker, but, their long-term effects are seldom reported. This research's purpose was to measure the long-term effects of treatments at a sandy tidal freshwater wetland created in 2003 (WWE) and a fine-textured, non-tidal wetland created in 2002 (CCW). We tested OM treatments, topsoil amendment, and microtopography effects on soil and vegetation properties at WWE and OM treatments at CCW. Pedogenic changes in soil morphology, physical and chemical properties were detected by comparing data to previous studies at these sites. At both sites, litter and biomass parameters were measured to estimate total mass C. Herbaceous biomass was measured at WWE. At WWE, no long-term OM treatment effects from 78 or 156 Mg ha-1 were observed. Soils in pits had higher OC, lower BD, and lower chroma than soils on mounds. Sandy and loamy HSFI's developed at WWE within four years, but there were fewer sandy indicators after 12 years. Loamy HSFI's were lost at CCW from 2003 to 2016. Plots at WWE that were amended with topsoil had higher soil mass C than the sandy soil due to a finer texture, but total mass C did not vary. At CCW, long-term OM treatment effects were observed, including lower BD, higher soil mass C, and higher tree mass C with increasing compost rates up to 224 Mg ha-1. Overall, the ideal compost loading rate for constructed wetlands varied with wetland type and mitigation goals. Compost rates of 112 Mg ha-1 are sufficient for short term establishment of wetland vegetation and hydric soil properties, but higher rates near 224 Mg ha-1 may be required for effects that last over 10 years.
- Doctoral Dissertations