Tag Archives: Wetland restoration

September Message from the Board

Dear Wetland Supporters,

In July, the National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking Conference was held in Raleigh, NC.  This conference brings together numerous companies and individuals interested in ecosystem services and allows a platform to share ideas and explore opportunities.  The various attendees ranged from Departments of Transportation, federal and state regulatory and resource agencies, attorneys, contractors, consultants, practitioners, and capital providers. 

A lot of interest has been generated in the last few years with ongoing concerns around climate change, nature-based solutions, and resiliency.  A lot of money is being spent to pursue larger and more complex projects as carbon sequestration needs and water quality/quantity issues continue to rise.  We only need to look at the recent algal blooms on the Chowan and Pamlico River (NC), flooding and water quality issues in northern Pitt County (NC) and flooding issues in Bucksport area of Horry County (SC) as examples of the issues communities across the Carolinas are battling. 

Most of these issues developed over time as we continue to increase the amount of impervious surface, clear and drained wetlands, and build in floodplains. Solutions will require a holistic and multiple project approach that will take time and money to plan and implement.  Restored and natural wetlands are a vital part of holistic, watershed-based solutions by helping to improve water quality and attenuate flood waters. 

As demonstrated at the national mitigation conference, the science of wetlands continues to evolve.  We are continually improving how wetland restoration projects are implemented to ensure the development of functioning ecosystems and to better track the restoration progress. 

In the last thirty years of driving toward the Carolina coast, I have witnessed shifts in wetland systems due to beaver activity and saltwater intrusion.  These changes to wetland hydrology whether water quantity or water chemistry have changed these ecosystems.  Learning to implement holistic projects will help enhance the environment and protect communities with nature-based solutions.  As this evolution happens, a whole industry continues to grow around mitigation and ecosystem services and the push for alternative ways to lessen the impact of climate change and build resilient system to withstand the future.

Go explore a wetland!

Norton Webster, Treasurer

Carolina Wetlands Association

August Message from the Board

Greetings Wetland Supporters:

Summer is well upon us and so is work dealing with wetlands.  One such event was the National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking Conference that was held in Raleigh, NC in July.  Mitigation and ecosystem banking is very important to maintain and increase the quality and quantity of wetlands across the United States.

First, impacts to wetlands due to development must be permitted by the state and federal regulatory agencies with the goal to avoid and minimize wetland impacts. When impacts can’t be avoided, the impacted wetland areas must be replaced or mitigated in size and function preferably in the same watershed.  Mitigation normally takes the form of restoration or creation. 

  • Creating a wetland means putting a wetland where one had not previously existed, and this is the most complex way to mitigate wetland impact.
  • Restoration means taking a damaged or degraded wetland and turning it back to a high functioning, high quality. Restoration can take on many forms such as improving or restoring hydrology (such as plugging ditches on the coast), planting native wetland vegetation, and connecting wetlands to other wetlands such as a salt marsh to the ocean.

So, what is ecosystem banking?  First ecosystems are more than wetlands and streams so what else may be mitigated?  There are some localities in the US where there are local ordinances that require impacts to entire ecosystems must also be mitigated.  There is such an ordinance in Hilton Head Island, SC. 

Banking refers to the process where wetlands, streams and other ecosystems are restored, and a bank of mitigation credit are established.   Restoration companies then these sell mitigation credits to the developer who want to impact a wetland, stream or other ecosystem.  This process of generating credits before the impact occur is an efficient way to mitigate impacts.

You will be hearing more about wetland restoration in the future due to some of the projects we are seeking funding and, we have recently formed a partnership with the SC Mitigation Association.  We will be exploring ways where we can benefit each other. 

Most of the sponsor of the Carolina Wetland Association are in the business of wetland mitigation; including our newest sponsor – the South Carolina Mitigation Association.  We look forward to working together on wetland education, outreach, and development opportunities.

Finally, while not mitigation-related, but our Volunteer Wetlands Monitoring Project has partnered with Wildnote to use their mobile data application to collect field data.  We will be testing to the best methods for citizen scientists to perform wetland monitoring.  We are both very excited to see how this works out.

So, go beat the heat and explore a cool shaded wetland.

Rick

Agriculture and Preserving Wetlands: Benefits for Farmers, Communities, and Wildlife

Written by Sarah Morton

Introduction

Farmers are the backbone of our country.  They work day in and day out to produce the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, and so much more.  Farms also provide critical habitats for wildlife and can host many different types of ecosystems, including wetlands.  From the 1950s to the 1970s though, wetlands- half a million acres of them, were pumped dry so the land could be used for agriculture (Sucik and Marks, 2013).  Today, wetlands are still drained or filled in for urban developments but farmers that do this lose privileges to USDA grants.  Now, there are programs that pay for farmers to revert land back to wetlands and this can increase yields and protect vital resources for years to come.

As more time goes by, farmers are embracing wetlands on their property because of the benefits they provide.  Utilizing wetlands can help farmers manage pollution, increase the number of pollinators, and potentially keep their wells from running dry.  Each of these benefits can improve the productivity of their crops and protect surrounding communities and wildlife.

Managing Pollution

Farms are the number one source of nutrient pollution in streams.  Nutrient pollution consists of nitrates and phosphorus from fertilizers and/or manure being mixed with water and running downhill after precipitation events.  Contaminated runoff from both free range livestock farms and concentrated animal feeding operations can cause algal blooms, seen in Figure 1, which leads to a lack of oxygen in waterways (Kay, et al., 2021).  This lack of oxygen, also called hypoxia, has been responsible for many fish and shellfish kills here in the Carolinas.  Fish kills occurred for months after Hurricane Matthew as waste from farms was swept into creeks and streams (Dybas, 2018).

Figure 1. Photograph of algal bloom. Source: NC Division of Water Resources

Wetlands, whether they are natural or constructed, can deter these pollutants from entering waterways even at times when the water flows high due to large rainfall events (Kay, et al., 2021).  Nitrates are removed from runoff and surface water by wetland vegetation (University Study, 2020).  The use of this nutrient by wetland plants lessens the amount of nitrates reaching other waterbodies.  Wetland restoration or construction enhances general water quality and protects downstream communities from pollution.

Increasing Pollinator Populations

Farmers that grow crops rely on bees, flies, butterflies, and more to pollinate flowers which will enable fruit/vegetable growth.  As wild pollinator populations fall due to habitat loss, preserving or restoring wetlands may be a solution to increase crop productivity (Begosh, Smith, et al., 2020).    A study published in the scientific journal of Ecosystem Services of Wetlands shows that the number and diversity of hymenopterans- wasps, bees, sawflies, and ants, are influenced by wetland presence (Begosh, Smith, et al., 2020).  Larger populations of hymenopterans increase the likelihood of pollination, which will positively affect crop yields.

Potential Well Water Recharge

Over 43 million people in the United States source their water from wells on their property (USGS).  Of these millions, most live in rural areas, including the farmers we rely on.  Water is a crucial resource for any farmer whether they only have livestock or if they grow crops.

When it comes to water consumption, around 80% of all the water in the United States is used for agricultural purposes (USDA, 2019).  This water consumption can lower the water table potentially causing nearby wells to run dry.  While this is more common in western parts of the United States, it’s important to manage water resources on the east coast as well.

 Most wetlands are located at points where water is discharged from the water table.  Wetlands are commonly found at lower elevations where the water table sits.  Some wetlands, however, can actually recharge groundwater as seen in Figure 2 (Carter, 1997). This means that water within the wetland seeps into the water table below and moves away from the wetland.  These types of wetlands can recharge nearby wells and protect water resources for farmers and surrounding communities.

Figure 2 Diagram of wetland and groundwater interactions. Water in wetlands can be a result of discharge from the water table as seen in the top image, or can recharge groundwater seen in the bottom image. Source: USGS

Wetlands and agriculture go hand in hand.  Less water pollution, healthier populations of pollinators, and protecting water resources are just a few benefits wetlands provide.

Are you a farmer or do you know one? 

Financial assistance to restore wetlands on agricultural lands is available through the following Programs: 

Additional resources are available in Landowner’s Guide to Wetland Restoration

References

Carter, V. (1997). Wetland Hydrology, Water Quality, and Associated Functions. USGS. National Water Summary on Wetland Resources. Accessed 5/31/2021. Retrieved from: https://water.usgs.gov/nwsum/WSP2425/hydrology.html

Begosh, A., Smith, L.M., Park, C.N. et al. (2020, Oct). Effects of Wetland Presence and Upland Land Use on Wild Hymenopteran and Dipteran Pollinators in the Rainwater Basin of Nebraska, USA. Wetlands 40, 1017–1031 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-019-01244-w

Dybas, C.  (2018, May 2). Two decades of hurricanes change coastal ecosystems: increase algae blooms, fish kills, dead zones. National Science Foundation. Retrieved from: https://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=245304

Kay, D., Clarke, A., Crowther, J., Davies, C., Francis, C. A., Stapleton, C. M., Watkins, J., Wyer, M. D. (2021, Feb 16). Effectiveness of Constructed Farm Wetlands In Attenuating Faecal Indicator Fluxes To Watercourses From Yard Runoff On Livestock Farms.  Water and Environment Journal.  DOI: 10.1111/wej.12700

NC Division of Water Resources. (n.d.). Blue-green Algae Fact Sheet.  Accessed 5/31/2021. Retrieved from: https://files.nc.gov/ncdeq/Water%20Quality/Environmental%20Sciences/FishKill/algae/Bluegreen%20Algae.pdf

Sucik, M. T. & Marks, E. (2013). The Status and Recent Trends of Wetlands in the United States. USDA.  Accessed 5/28/2021. Retrieved from: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1262239.pdf

University Study Shows Restoring Wetlands near Farms would Reduce Water Pollution. (2020, December 23). Legal Monitor Worldwide.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2019, Sep 23). Irrigation & Water Use. Accessed 5/28/2021. Retrieved from: https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-practices-management/irrigation-water-use/

About the Author

Sarah Morton

Sarah Morton is a student at Southern New Hampshire University studying environmental science with a concentration in natural resources and conservation.  After finishing her degree, her goal is to work closely with local farmers in North Carolina to protect and enhance soils for generations to come.