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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Wetlands and Aquatic Processes

Wetland Soil Carbon in a Watershed Context for the Prairie Pothole Region


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 45 No. 1, p. 368-375
    unlockOPEN ACCESS
    Received: June 25, 2015
    Accepted: Dec 02, 2015
    Published: January 4, 2016

    * Corresponding author(s): PhillipsR@landcareresearch.co.nz
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  1. Rebecca L. Phillips *a,
  2. Cari Fickenb,
  3. Mikki Ekenc,
  4. John Hendricksond and
  5. Ofer Beerie
  1. a Landcare Research, Gerald Street, Lincoln, New Zealand, and Ecological Insights Corporation, 501 6th Ave NE, Mandan, ND 58554
    b Duke University, Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708
    c Ecological Insights Corporation, 501 6th Ave NE, Mandan, ND 58554
    d USDA–ARS, Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, PO Box 459, Mandan, ND 58554
    e c/o Bruce Smith, University of North Dakota, Box 9007, Grand Forks, ND 58202
Core Ideas:
  • Wetland soil carbon varies with upland land use but not landscape position.
  • Carbon mineralization rates vary with landscape position.
  • Soil removal for wetland restoration may affect plant re-establishment.


Wetland restoration in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) often involves soil removal to enhance water storage volume and/or remove seedbanks of invasive species. Consequences of soil removal could include loss of soil organic carbon (SOC), which is important to ecosystem functions such as water-holding capacity and nutrient retention needed for plant re-establishment. We used watershed position and surface flow pathways to classify wetlands into headwater or network systems to address two questions relevant to carbon (C) cycling and wetland restoration practices: (i) Do SOC stocks and C mineralization rates vary with landscape position in the watershed (headwater vs. network systems) and land use (restored vs. native prairie grasslands)? (ii) How might soil removal affect plant emergence? We addressed these questions using wetlands at three large (?200 ha) study areas in the central North Dakota PPR. We found the cumulative amount of C mineralization over 90 d was 100% greater for network than headwater systems, but SOC stocks were similar, suggesting greater C inputs beneath wetlands connected by higher-order drainage lines are balanced by greater rates of C turnover. Land use significantly affected SOC, with greater stocks beneath native prairie than restored grasslands for both watershed positions. Removal of mineral soil negatively affected plant emergence. This watershed-based framework can be applied to guide restoration designs by (i) weighting wetlands based on surface flow connectivity and contributing area and (ii) mapping the effects of soil removal on plant and soil properties for network and headwater wetland systems in the PPR.

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Copyright © 2016. Copyright © by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Inc.