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SFS Annual Meeting

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NITRATE DYNAMICS IN RESTORED RIPARIAN WETLANDS IN WESTERN KENTUCKY

Nutrient runoff from agricultural lands cause hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico each summer. The USDA NRCS Wetlands Reserve Program has restored easements of riparian wetlands along tributaries of the Mississippi River to mitigate this problem. However, few studies have quantified ecological effects of wetland restoration and denitrification success. We are monitoring changes in nitrate concentrations during flooding events on easements ranging in restoration age from one to twelve years in western Kentucky. We are using automatic water samplers to collect discrete samples across various flood states and analyzing samples for nitrate/nitrite concentrations. Preliminary results from winter flood events indicate that, while in some easements nitrate concentrations remained stable, in other easements nitrate levels decreased 34-56% throughout a flood event, from 0.92±0.14 mg L-1 to 0.51±0.11 mg L-1 (means ± standard error). Comparing these patterns with those of adjacent river channels and with denitrification potential of wetland soils will help us understand the ability of these easements to reduce nutrient loads. Monitoring ecological processes in these restored wetland easements can help inform future adaptive management practices that include a variety of restoration goals for nutrient reduction.

Michael B. Flinn (Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Watershed Studies Institute, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Murray State University, mflinn@murraystate.edu;


Howard Whiteman (Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Watershed Studies Institute, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Murray State University, hwhiteman@murraystate.edu;


Karen Baumann (Primary Presenter/Author), Watershed Studies Institute, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Murray State University, kbaumann1@murraystate.edu;