Hydrologic Recovery of Artificially-Drained Wetlands in Coastal North Carolina

by Donald R. Belk, City of Greenville, Greenville, United States,
Jonathan D. Phillips, City of Greenville, Greenville, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Coastal Zone '93


The hydrologic status of three peat wetland areas was compared to test a theoretical model which suggests that loss of conveyance capacity in artificial channels allows wetlands to restore hydrologic equilibrium after artificial drainage. Soil moisture and water table elevations were measured at an undrained Atlantic White Cedar swamp control site, and artificially-drained site where flashboard risers were installed in an attempt to restore wetland conditions, and an artificially-drained site with no water control structures which had not been renovated for at least 20 years. Results showed no significant difference in water table elevations, water table fluctuations, or soil moisture status between the sites. When a model accounting for loss of moisture storage capacity due to subsidence of peat is applied the artificially-drained sites differ from the natural site. Results suggest that loss of peat due to subsidence and the associated water storage capacity is the only permanent hydrologic alteration associated with artificial drainage. If artificial channels are not maintained, loss of conveyance capacity ultimately restores a hydrologic regime similar to that of unaltered wetlands.

Subject Headings: Wetlands (coastal) | Hydrologic models | Organic matter | Water table | Drainage | Water storage | Soil water | North Carolina

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