Understanding Soil Processes: The Next Frontier of Wetland Restoration.
Curtis Richardson1, Ariana Sutton-Grier1, and Greg Bruland2. (1) Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment, Levine Science Building, Research drive, Durham, NC 27708, (2) University of Florida Soil Science Department, 2169 McCarty Hall, PO box 110290, Gainesville, FL 32611
Wetland restoration strategies typically focus on restoring wetland hydrology and plant communities without considering the important role soils play as the foundation of ecosystem processes. Soil physical and chemical properties are critical to ecosystem function and hence to ecosystem restoration. Poor restorations often occur due to a misunderstanding of the importance of soil functions and therefore restoration success is less likely to occur when vital soil properties and processes are not restored. Case studies from freshwater, and salt marsh wetlands in North Carolina, Virginia and Iraq's Mesopotamian marshes will be used to examine key soil properties and processes that should be considered in wetland restoration projects. These properties include the importance of soil moisture availability, the role of soil organic matter and the significance of nitrogen and phosphorus availability to increased plant survival and productivity. The role of soil toxicity from the build-up of salts (NaCl), metals (Se, As, Hg) and acidity will also be examined because toxicity can be a critical constraint of restoration. These case studies will demonstrate the important role soils play in restoration and provide suggestions for how soils can be managed to facilitate restoration of wetland ecosystem functions.