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The Influence of Microtopography on Soil Nutrients in Created Mitigation Wetlands


C. Ahn, email


This study explores the relationship between microtopography and soil nutrients (and trace elements), comparing results for created and reference wetlands in Virginia, and examining the effects of disking during wetland creation. Replicate multiscale tangentially conjoined circular transects were used to quantify microtopography both in terms of elevation and by two microtopographic indices. Corresponding soil samples were analyzed for moisture content, total C and N, KCl-extractable NH4–N and NO3–N, and Mehlich-3 extractable P, Ca, Mg, K, Al, Fe, and Mn. Means and variances of soil nutrient/element concentrations were compared between created and natural wetlands and between disked and nondisked created wetlands. Natural sites had higher and more variable soil moisture, higher extractable P and Fe, lower Mn than created wetlands, and comparatively high variability in nutrient concentrations. Disked sites had higher soil moisture, NH4–N, Fe, and Mn than did nondisked sites. Consistently low variances (Levene test for inequality) suggested that nondisked sites had minimal nutrient heterogeneity. Across sites, low P availability was inferred by the molar ratio (Mehlich-3 [P/(Al + Fe)] < 0.06); strong intercorrelations among total C, total N, and extractable Fe, Al, and P suggested that humic–metal–P complexes may be important for P retention and availability. Correlations between nutrient/element concentrations and microtopographic indices suggested increased Mn and decreased K and Al availability with increased surface roughness. Disking appears to enhance water and nutrient retention, as well as nutrient heterogeneity otherwise absent from created wetlands, thus potentially promoting ecosystem development.