Assessing the hydrologic impact of historical railroad embankments on wetland vegetation response in Canaan Valley, WV (USA): The value of high-resolution data

Restoration Ecology
By: , and 

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Abstract

The recovery of natural ecological processes after disturbance is poorly understood. Some disturbances may be so severe as to set ecosystems onto a new trajectory. The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia protects a unique high-altitude wetland that was heavily disturbed by logging 100 years BP and has since transitioned to a new ecological state (shrub wetland). Refuge managers interested in preserving and restoring ecosystem states expressed concerned about lingering impacts of previous disturbances (logging, railroads, beaver, deer, fire). Available data suggested hydrologic impacts from the remnant rail grade but managers had insufficient quantitative data to assess these impacts. We initiated a fine scale assessment of topography, vegetation distribution, and hydrology to assess impacts from the remnant rail grade using lidar data, vegetation surveys, and piezometers. We developed topographic models, hydrological models, and mapped vegetation distribution. We developed statistical models to assess relationships between vegetation communities, hydrology, and distance to the rail grade. Surprisingly, we found that hydrologic flow paths did not conform to expectation and were not restricted by remnant land use features. For the most part, vegetation communities are responding to topographic and environmental gradients that existed prior to disturbance. Use of highly detailed topographic data (lidar), field hydrology, and vegetation studies allowed us to more accurately assess hydrologic and vegetation regimes, eliminating the need for mitigation, saving significant resources.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Assessing the hydrologic impact of historical railroad embankments on wetland vegetation response in Canaan Valley, WV (USA): The value of high-resolution data
Series title Restoration Ecology
DOI 10.1111/rec.13061
Volume 28
Issue 1
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Leetown Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 51
Last page 62
Country United States
State West Virginia
County Tucker County
Other Geospatial Canaan Valley
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