Characterization of the Hydrologic Regime of Four Carolina Bay Plant Communities.

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Title: Characterization of the Hydrologic Regime of Four Carolina Bay Plant Communities.
Author: Caldwell, Peter V.
Advisors: R. W. Skaggs, Committee Member
M. J. Vepraskas, Committee Co-Chair
J. D. Gregory, Committee Chair
R. L. Huffman, Committee Member
Abstract: Successful restoration of a wetland requires that wetland vegetation be established at the site. Unfortunately, the hydrologic regime of restored wetlands is frequently incompatible with these communities and the vegetation can not survive. This is sometimes a result of improper hydrologic design, but in many cases it is due to a lack of understanding of the hydrology required by these plant communities. The objective of this study was to provide quantitative data describing the long-term (40 yr) hydrology associated with the Pond Pine Woodland (PPW), Nonriverine Swamp Forest (NRSF), High Pocosin (HP), and Bay Forest (BF) plant communities found in three undisturbed Carolina Bays on the North Carolina Coastal Plain. This objective was achieved by simulating water table depths in the various plant communities in the bays over a 40 yr period with calibrated DRAINMOD hydrologic models. The hydrology of the PPW community differed significantly from that of the NRSF, HP, and BF communities in that water tables were deeper in the soil profile, water was ponded on the surface less often and for shorter durations, and the water table dropped to mineral soil horizons more frequently for extended periods of time. Further, the PPW received an average of 15% of its water input from groundwater inflow, whereas the other communities did not exhibit groundwater inflow. The source of the groundwater inflow is not known but it is believed to be a local phenomenon. The water could enter the bays either laterally from adjacent uplands or vertically from confined aquifers below. A confined artesian aquifer below one of the bays was likely the source of inflow for that bay. The hydrology of the NRSF, HP, and BF communities were very similar. The water table in the NRSF and HP occasionally dropped to mineral soil horizons, which may provide them with additional fertility relative to BF. The results of this study will enable wetland restoration engineers to better approximate the natural hydrology of these plant communities at a restoration site, thereby improving vegetation establishment success.
Date: 2005-11-17
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Forestry

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