Effect of river sediment on phosphorus chemistry of similarly aged natural and created wetlands in the Atchafalaya Delta, Louisiana, USA.

Research paper by M E ME Poach, S P SP Faulkner

Indexed on: 29 Jun '07Published on: 29 Jun '07Published in: Journal of environmental quality


The goal of wetland creation is to produce an artificial wetland that functions as a natural wetland. Studies comparing created wetlands to similarly aged natural wetlands provide important information about creation techniques and their improvement so as to attain that goal. We hypothesized that differences in sediment phosphorus accretion, deposition, and chemistry between created and natural wetlands in the Atchafalaya Delta, Louisiana, USA were a function of creation technique and natural river processes. Sediment deposition was determined with feldspar marker horizons located in created and natural wetlands belonging to three age classes (<3, 5-10, and 15-20 yr old). Phosphorus fractions were measured in these deposited sediments and in suspended and bedload sediment from the Atchafalaya River. Bedload sediment had significantly lower iron- and aluminum-bound, reductant-soluble, and total phosphorus than suspended sediment due to its high sand percentage. This result indicates that wetlands artificially created in the Atchafalaya Delta using bedload sediment will initially differ from natural wetlands of the same age. Even so, similarities between the mudflat stratum of the <1- to 3-yr-old created wetland and the mudflat stratum of the 15- to 20-yr-old natural wetland support the contention that created wetlands in the Atchafalaya Delta can develop natural characteristics through the deposition of river suspended sediment. Differences between three created wetland strata, the 15- to 20-yr-old willow stratum and the <1- to 3-yr-old willow and mixed marsh strata, and their natural counterparts were linked to design elements of the created wetlands that prevented the direct deposition of the river's suspended sediment.