Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
The goal of the project was to reclaim a high quality wetland ecosystem, including suitable habitat for fish and wildlife. This goal required the development of a design that, based on ecological principles, is self-maintaining and in harmony with natural systems. A water budget for the project was developed to evaluate the disposition of storage, inflow, and outflow of water within the project area during a typical year.
After surface mining, the project area was recontoured; levees were installed to impound drainage from a 366-acre watershed to form wetlands; ponds were constructed within wetlands to maintain open water all year; and mulch from a wetland borrow site was used to provide a seedbank for vegetation on some areas, whereas other areas were covered with overburden materials. In 1982, over 65,000 tree seedlings were planted on 60 acres. Principal species included bald cypress, sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), red bay (Persea borbonia), red maple, Carolina ash (Fraxinus caroliniana), sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis), elm (Ulmus americana) , holly (Ilex cassine) , and black gum (Nyssa sylvatica).
In fall 1982, seasonal monitoring of vegetation began. Line-intercept and line-strip techniques were used to determine percent cover, frequency, and species richness, in addition to the relation of various water levels to plants. Both mulched and overburden areas were sampled and compared. Monitoring of trees included assessing the forest community development from wetland edge to upland. Data on condition, survival, and growth of seedlings were collected.
Benthic invertebrates were collected beginning in 1984. Core, artificial substrate, and macrophyte sampling techniques were used to determine density, percent composition, Shannon-Weaver diversity values, and community structure. The objective of the sampling was to develop a predicted model of success on the long-term trends in biological community development in a reclaimed wetland ecosystem. Invertebrate sampling will aid in documenting succession in new marshes and determining the influence of macrophytes on invertebrate populations.
Water quality parameters have been sampled quarterly since 1982 to assess both surface water and groundwater quality on the site, as well as in receiving waters of Payne Creek. Measurements include dissolved oxygen, biological oxygen demand, temperature, pH, turbidity, specific conductance, bicarbonates, dissolved and suspended solids, metals, nitrogen, and radioactivity.
Observations of birds were tallied during routine aquatic invertebrate and water quality sampling; species lists were provided for each season. Fish were electroshocked during spring 1986, and species and lengths were recorded.
After 2 years of sampling benthic invertebrates, results indicated that a rich, diverse benthic community had established. The most significant influence on the numbers and type of taxa at each station appeared to be the amount of stream flow during the sampling period. Of the water quality parameters, pH was the only one that generally did not conform to State water quality standards. The current high pH of open water areas does not appear to be affecting groundwater or Payne Creek; pH is expected to decline over the long term as organic material accumulates in the swamp.
Plans are to continue collecting and analyzing data over the next several years, which should aid in the evaluation of techniques used in this project and the types of improvements required. Monitoring of the water quality of Payne Creek also will continue.