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Restoring coastal wetlands that were ditched for mosquito control: a preliminary assessment of hydro-leveling as a restoration technique

January 1, 2007

The wetlands surrounding Tampa Bay, Florida were extensively ditched for mosquito control in the 1950s. Spoil from ditch construction was placed adjacent to the wetlands ditches creating mound-like features (spoil-mounds). These mounds represent a loss of 14% of the wetland area in Tampa Bay. Spoil mounds interfere with tidal flow and are locations for non-native plants to colonize (e.g., Schinus terebinthifolius). Removal of the spoil mounds to eliminate exotic plants, restore native vegetation, and re-establish natural hydrology is a restoration priority for environmental managers. Hydro-leveling, a new technique, was tested in a mangrove forest restoration project in 2004. Hydro-leveling uses a high pressure stream of water to wash sediment from the spoil mound into the adjacent wetland and ditch. To assess the effectiveness of this technique, we conducted vegetation surveys in areas that were hydro-leveled and in non-hydro-leveled areas 3 years post-project. Adult Schinus were reduced but not eliminated from hydro-leveled mounds. Schinus seedlings however were absent from hydro-leveled sites. Colonization by native species was sparse. Mangrove seedlings were essentially absent (≈2 m−2) from the centers of hydro-leveled mounds and were in low density on their edges (17 m−2) in comparison to surrounding mangrove forests (105 m−2). Hydro-leveling resulted in mortality of mangroves adjacent to the mounds being leveled. This was probably caused by burial of pneumatophores during the hydro-leveling process. For hydro-leveling to be a useful and successful restoration technique several requirements must be met. Spoil mounds must be lowered to the level of the surrounding wetlands. Spoil must be distributed further into the adjacent wetland to prevent burial of nearby native vegetation. Finally, native species may need to be planted on hydro-leveled areas to speed up the re-vegetation process.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2007
Title Restoring coastal wetlands that were ditched for mosquito control: a preliminary assessment of hydro-leveling as a restoration technique
DOI 10.1007/s11852-007-0007-2
Authors Thomas J. Smith, Ginger Tiling, Pamela S. Leasure
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Coastal Conservation
Index ID 70029956
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coastal and Marine Geology Program