QUANTIFYING CURRENT SEDIMENT DEPOSITION, LEGACY SEDIMENTS, AND PRE-IMPOUNDMENT VERTICAL ACCRETION AND CARBON DYNAMICS FOLLOWING DAM REMOVAL IN A RECENTLY RESTORED TIDAL FRESHWATER WETLAND

Davis, Melissa J.  MS Thesis

Damming disrupts natural sediment flow to downstream resulting in legacy sediment accumulation. Legacy sediments have been well investigated in streams throughout the Piedmont region; however, there is no research of legacy sediments following dam removal in low-gradient Coastal Plain streams. Research objectives were to: characterize legacy sediments in a low-gradient stream restoration, quantify pre-impoundment accretion and carbon dynamics, and assess current sediment deposition rates via 14C analyses within sediment cores and sediment collection tiles. Carbon accumulation and accretion rates of modern tidal sediment have reached that of the tidal relic benchmark and current sediment deposition rates are similar between the natural reference and restored tidal wetlands. At this site, the pattern of legacy sediment accumulation and stream incision was reversed relative to previous studies in higher gradient systems. Results suggest in dam impacted Coastal Plain streams, legacy sediment may become a benefit rather than a liability for downstream tidal wetlands.

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