Improving Soil and Water Quality Functions of Wetland Restoration and Creation Projects

EPA Grant Number: F6B20719
Title: Improving Soil and Water Quality Functions of Wetland Restoration and Creation Projects
Investigators: Ballantine, Katherine Anne
Institution: Cornell University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 1, 2006 through August 1, 2009
Project Amount: $111,172
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Water Resources and Wetland Restoration , Water and Watersheds


Wetland restoration and creation is increasingly used as a strategy to address both historic wetland losses and to mitigate new wetland impacts. Limited research has examined the success of restored and created wetlands in the U.S. for avifaunal habitat, plant biodiversity and cover; however, less is known about soil development in these systems. Soil processes are particularly important as soil organic matter, texture, and other properties are directly linked to critical wetland functions such as water quality improvement. Results from recent studies indicate that soils of restored wetlands don’t resemble those of natural wetlands for decades, if ever. Therefore, there is concern that the desired ecological services of restored wetlands are not achieved despite the money, time, and effort committed to their restoration every year. The purpose of this investigation is to develop and implement freshwater wetland restoration techniques for improving water quality functions.


I will use controlled soil core laboratory experiments, complimentary field plot manipulations, and landscape scale analysis to examine how combinations of different organic matter amendments, plantings, and soil types compare in their ability to remove contaminants in the water. My research will focus on answering four questions regarding restoring wetlands: (1) can we accelerate water quality functioning in restored wetlands by improving initial restoration conditions? (2) Do initial amendments of organic matter, soil plugs, and/or planting of wetlands accelerate processes of pollutant and nutrient removal? (3) How does the species, quality, and amount of organic matter affect the soil’s filtering capacity in restored and in natural wetlands? (4) How does the associated plant litter vary in quality and decomposition rate and how does this affect wetland soil properties?

Expected Results:

By analyzing methods for improving water quality functions of restored and created wetlands, I hope to: (1) develop general principles for guiding the design of restored wetlands to maximize their potential for water quality improvement, and (2) establish guidelines that can be applied to watershed restoration planning efforts in the United States and beyond.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, ecosystem services, restoration, creation, wetland restoration, restoration success, mitigation, development, pollution, restoration methodology, water quality improvement, wetland functions, ecosystem functions, soil development, soil properties, soil organic matter, agricultural runoff, land development, wetland policy, Clean Water Act, No Net Loss, conservation, ecology and ecosystems, environmental chemistry, wetland plant species, watersheds, soil amendments, wetland plantings,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Water & Watershed, Environmental Monitoring, Ecology and Ecosystems, Watersheds, landscape change, soil water chemistry, biodiversity, natural resource management, nutrient flux, sediment transport, wetland restoration, constructed wetlands, water quality

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • 2008
  • Final