Navigation Links
Researchers examine role of soil patterns in dam restoration
Date:12/3/2008

MADISON Looking at the site today, it's easy to forget that a dam and pond stood for 43 years on the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Franbrook Farm Research Station in southwestern Wisconsin. All traces of the structure are gone, and acres of plants, both native and weedy, now carpet the floor of the former basin.

Nevertheless, memories of the dam remain, and by digging into the soils of the basin, UW-Madison researchers are now unearthing them. Writing in a special issue (December) of Restoration Ecology, they report the discovery of two superimposed patterns of soil properties that chronicle distinct stages in the basin's history: its decades of submersion, and its emptying when the dam was breached and removed.

"In our analysis, we were able to pick up those different soil patterns, which was pretty exciting," says soil science professor Nick Balster, who led the study with doctoral candidate Ana Wells and landscape architecture professor John Harrington. "We could see the chemical and physical patterns that were created both by the inundation (of the land) and by the draining."

Fascinating as those traces of the past are, however, what they mean for the future is the real question, Balster says. After seeding the basin with prairie species, the scientists are now waiting to see if the soil patterns affect the growth and distribution of the plants, and their ability to stand up against weedy, invasive competitors.

"By doing this research, we're asking the question, 'How much do soils matter in the restoration of these basins?'" Balster says. "As people who love to study soil we're going to say, 'A lot! Soils likely drive the whole thing.' But as scientists, we don't know yet."

Answering that question is becoming more and more pressing. During the past three decades, hundreds of dams nationwide have reached the end of their lives, forcing dam owners to make costly repairs or increasingly to remove the structures. With some 3,800 dams to its name or as many as 10,000, if small, unregulated structures are counted Wisconsin leads the nation in total dams and has pulled more than 130. States such as California, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have taken out scores of dams as well.

The trend toward removal rather than repair has been driven in part by anglers and river enthusiasts, who justifiably welcome the return the free-flowing rivers and cold-water streams. But the outcome for the once-flooded lands is less certain. Many reports suggest they become havens for aggressive, invading plants such as reed canary grass, which has already consumed hundreds of thousands of acres in Wisconsin and other states.

The researchers' work at Franbrook Farm, where the Beers Dam was removed in 2003, has now begun to yield some intriguing clues as to why this might be. For one, the scientists found fundamental differences in nutrient levels and physical structure between the knee-deep sediments that were deposited over the dam's lifetime and the original soils buried beneath. Most striking, they say, is how uniform the spatial composition of the sediments is when compared to the patchy structure of buried soils. And this lack of chemical and physical variability might be one reason why weeds tend to thrive.

"Because you don't have the patterns of heterogeneity that allow diverse plant communities to establish, invasive species can come in and move quickly through the area," says Harrington.

At the same time, the sediments also contained definite gradients in density, moisture and other factors, which were laid down when the dam was breached. Finer sediments, for instance, were picked up by the rushing waters and carried closer to the spot where the dam once stood, while heavier, coarser particles tended to move less and settle farther out.

These gradients in particle size also dictate how some nutrients are distributed on the landscape, says Balster. For example, the team found higher concentrations of phosphorus, which binds preferentially to fine particles, closer to the dam's former location than farther away.

The scientists' next goal is to figure out what all this means for their prairie restoration which isn't to say they're rooting necessarily for the native plants.

"If we wanted to, with the expertise on our team, we could likely achieve a restoration of this site, by, say, removing the sediments," says Balster. "But we're interested in studying the drivers for restoration. We want to understand the process both above and belowground."


'/>"/>

Contact: Nick Balster
njbalster@wisc.edu
608-263-5719
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Researchers identify proteins involved in new neurodegenerative syndrome
2. Texas researchers and educators head for Antarctica
3. MGH researchers describe new way to identify, evolve novel enzymes
4. University of Pennsylvania researchers develop formula to gauge risk of disease clusters
5. U of MN researchers discover noninvasive diagnostic tool for brain diseases
6. U of Minnesota researchers discover noninvasive diagnostic tool for brain diseases
7. Researchers discover new strategies for antibiotic resistance
8. Researchers find new taste in fruit flies: carbonated water
9. Binghamton University researchers investigate evolving malaria resistance
10. UIC researchers find promising new targets for antibiotics
11. Researchers develop simple method to create natural drug products
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/14/2017)... , June 15, 2017  IBM (NYSE: IBM ) ... international tech event dedicated to developing collaboration between startups and ... on June 15-17. During the event, nine startups will showcase ... value in various industries. France ... the international market, with a 30 percent increase in the ...
(Date:5/16/2017)... May 16, 2017  Veratad Technologies, LLC ( www.veratad.com ... age and identity verification solutions, announced today they will ... 2017, May 15 thru May 17, 2017, in ... International Trade Center. Identity impacts the ... in today,s quickly evolving digital world, defining identity is ...
(Date:5/6/2017)... SINGAPORE , May 5, 2017 ... has just announced a new breakthrough in biometric ... that exploits quantum mechanical properties to perform ... new smart semiconductor material created by Ram Group ... across finance, entertainment, transportation, supply chains and security. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... 10, 2017 , ... San Diego-based team building and cooking events company, Lajollacooks4u, ... The bold new look is part of a transformation to increase awareness, appeal ... growth period. , It will also expand its service offering from its signature gourmet ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... For the second time ... US2020 STEM Mentoring Award. Representatives of the FirstHand program travelled to Washington, D.C. ... US2020. , US2020’s mission is to change the trajectory of STEM education in ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... International research firm Parks Associates announced today that Tom ... 2017 Annual Meeting , October 11 in Scottsdale, Arizona ... and how smart safety and security products impact the competitive landscape. ... Parks Associates: Smart Home Devices: Main Purchase Driver ... "The residential security market has experienced continued growth, and ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... USDM ... firm for the life sciences and healthcare industries, announces a presentation by Subbu ... , The presentation, “Automating GxP Validation for Agile Cloud Platforms,” will present a ...
Breaking Biology Technology: