Evaluation of a Water Budget Model for Created Wetland Design and Comparative Natural Wetland Hydroperiods

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Virginia Tech


Wetland impacts in the Mid-Atlantic USA are frequently mitigated via wetland creation in former uplands. Regulatory approval requires a site-specific water budget that predicts the annual water level regime (hydroperiod). However, many studies of created wetlands indicate that post-construction hydroperiods frequently are not similar to impacted wetland systems. My primary objective was to evaluate a water budget model, Wetbud (Basic model), through comparison of model output to on-site water level data for two created forested wetlands in Northern Virginia. Initial sensitivity analyses indicated that watershed curve number and outlet height had the most leverage on model output. Addition of maximum depth of water level drawdown greatly improved model accuracy. I used Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) and root mean squared error (RMSE) to evaluate goodness of fit of model output against site monitoring data. The Basic model reproduced the overall seasonal hydroperiod well once fully parameterized, despite NSE values ranging from -0.67 to 0.41 in calibration and from -4.82 to -0.26 during validation. For RMSE, calibration values ranged from 5.9 cm to 12.7 cm during calibration and from 8.2 cm to 18.5 cm during validation. My second objective was to select a group of "design target hydroperiods" for common Mid-Atlantic USA wetland types. From > 90 sites evaluated, I chose four mineral flats, three riverine wetlands, and one depressional wetland that met all selection criteria. Taken together, improved wetland water budget modeling procedures (like Wetbud) combined with the use of appropriate target hydroperiod information should improve the success of wetland creation efforts.



Wetland creation, model evaluation, sensitivity analysis, calibration, validation, wetland design