Restoration of Ephemeral WetlandsEPA Grant Number: F5E11122
Title: Restoration of Ephemeral Wetlands
Investigators: Brown, Joyce M.
Institution: University of Central Florida
EPA Project Officer: Cobbs-Green, Gladys M.
Project Period: July 1, 2004 through May 1, 2009
Project Amount: $104,078
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2005) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships
I will determine the effects of forest management practices on amphibians breeding in small, ephemeral wetlands in the Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina. Forest managers used prescribed burning and mechanical thinning of woody plants to successfully restore pine uplands throughout the southeastern U.S., but the effects of these practices on small wetland communities embedded within the forest is uncertain. My hypothesis is that burning and thinning increases amphibian species richness and favors endemic pine-forest species breeding in small, ephemeral wetlands. I will test this hypothesis by examining known breeding habitats of rare and endemic amphibian species in the context of extensive land-cover and management history data provided by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, and compare known breeding habitats to proximate and previously unstudied habitats. In addition, I will apply experimental treatments including thinning and burning to an array of ephemeral ponds in a replicated factorial design.
The objective of this project is the restoration and maintenance of small, ephemeral wetlands to provide suitable breeding habitat for rare and endemic amphibian species.
The southern region of the Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina is a wildland-urban interface where managers use prescribed fire and thinning to reduce wildfire threat and restore forests, but the effects of such practices on amphibians breeding in small wetlands within the forest is uncertain. Amphibians are essential to wetland and upland ecosystem health. I will compare amphibian breeding habitats in areas with different vegetation and management histories, and use prescribed burning and thinning as treatments in controlled experiments. The results of my study will be used to protect wetlands from degradation and conserve threatened and endangered amphibian species.
To meet the objective of this project I will employ a research program that includes a descriptive and an experimental approach. In the descriptive component of my research, I will describe patterns of wetland habitat use by amphibians and correlate habitat use with land-cover and management history. In the experimental component, I will identify causal mechanisms that explain the patterns and correlations I observe in the descriptive component. I will use the results of this project to make recommendations to forest managers for the restoration and maintenance of small, ephemeral wetlands, and for the conservation of rare and endemic amphibians.
I expect to find correlations between land-cover and management history, and amphibian use of small, ephemeral wetlands as breeding sites. I expect burning and thinning to have a significant effect on environmental parameters and complex species interactions that determine assemblage composition. Burning and thinning should increase amphibian species diversity and favor endemic pine-forest species. Management recommendations arising from my research can be used to maintain and restore wetland communities in other geographic regions. My project will provide an example of a successful cooperative effort between academic research and federal land managers.