Mitigating the Impacts of Climate Change on Plant Communities Through Wetland Restoration Design

EPA Grant Number: F13B20285

Title: Mitigating the Impacts of Climate Change on Plant Communities Through Wetland Restoration Design
Investigators: Stanford, Bronwen
Institution: University of California - Santa Cruz
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 30, 2014 through September 30, 2016
Project Amount: $84,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Ecology

Objective:

The objectives of this project are to evaluate (1) the short-term resilience of plant and invertebrate communities to climate stress at different scales of physical heterogeneity, (2) the ability of restored wetland habitats to support plant and invertebrate communities with resilience similar to that of natural habitats and (3) the importance of connectivity and local vs. landscape controls on restoration outcomes.

Approach:

The persistence of plant and invertebrate communities will be compared in natural and restored/constructed vernal pool complexes over
a 3-year period. Persistence across 3 years of variable climate will act as a proxy for resilience to climate change over the longer term. For each pool and each vernal pool complex, physical heterogeneity and species richness will be surveyed for an effect of connectivity and physical habi- tat complexity on the persistence of biological communities over time. Comparisons of species persistence and physical heterogeneity between the constructed and natural pools will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of this restoration technique. The impact of surrounding land use and potential dispersal sites on community composition and turnover also will be evaluated.

Expected Results:

A correlation is expected between low temporal turnover of species (high persistence) in a group of pools and the physical heterogeneity of that group. Plant communities in constructed pools are expected to show lower resilience and lower physical heterogeneity than natural pools, affecting the ability of species to persist over time under changing climatic conditions. Higher persistence of a species within a portion of the wetland complex could contribute to resilience throughout the complex through dispersal of species to other pools. Finally, lower species richness is expected in more simplified pools.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

This project has the potential to help inform wetland mitigation guidelines to create systems that are more resilient to climatic stress. Precisely targeted, empirically based guidelines such as the ones this study seeks to inform have the potential to result in more efficient restoration spending and healthier, more resilient, vernal pool ecosystems. A more complete knowledge of the factors that confer long-term resilience will help ensure the creation and protection of those wetlands that best support functioning assemblages of species under a changing climate and, thus, best support the local communities dependent on the flood protection and water filtration that these wetlands provide.

Supplemental Keywords:

biodiversity, resilience, restoration

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2015
  • Final