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CHARACTERIZING VARIABILITY AND DRIVERS OF WETLAND STRUCTURE AT THE GREAT DISMAL SWAMP

Peatlands are unique wetland ecosystems, which provide valuable ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, water storage, and biodiversity preservation. The Great Dismal Swamp (GDS) is the largest intact remnant of a greater forested peatland system that once spanned from the Chesapeake Bay to the Albemarle Sound; however, extensive logging and ditching shifted hydrologic regimes and vegetative composition across GDS. Once a mosaic of different community types, these disturbances resulted in more homogeneous vegetative composition, a dominance of red maple, and increased peat subsidence. In this work, we seek to characterize contemporary vegetative composition and peat soil properties and depths across GDS using data collected from 80 distributed survey plots. Further, we explore hydrologic controls on wetland structure by relating vegetation data to soil hydrologic indicators (e.g., bulk density, carbon/nitrogen ratios). Initial results identify major community types present but also highlight the dominance of certain species, which span inferred hydrologic regimes. Our results will inform adaptive hydrologic restoration efforts currently underway at GDS to maximize habitat diversity and carbon storage.

Raymond Ludwig (Primary Presenter/Author), Virginia Tech, rfludwig@vt.edu;


Daniel McLaughlin ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Virginia Tech University, Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, mclaugd@vt.edu;