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The Occurrence and Impact of Sedimentation in Central Pennsylvania Wetlands

  • Wardrop, Denice H.1
  • Brooks, Robert P.1
  • 1 The Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Cooperative Wetlands Center, University Park, PA, 16802 , University Park
Published Article
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
Publication Date
Jun 01, 1998
DOI: 10.1023/A:1005958429834
Springer Nature


Sedimentation rates and deposited sediment characteristics in twenty-five wetlands in central Pennsylvania were measured during the period Fall 1994 to Fall 1995. Wetlands were located primarily in five watersheds, and represented a variety of hydrogeomorphic (HGM) subclasses and surrounding land use. Sedimentation rates were measured via the placement of 135 Plexiglas disks. Annual organic and inorganic loadings were determined. Sedimentation rates ranged from 0 to 8 cm/year, with sedimentation rates significantly correlated with surrounding land use and HGM subclass. Overall mean mineral and organic accretion rates were 778 g m2 yr-1 (+/- 1417) and 550 g m2 yr-1 (+/- 589), respectively. Mean mineral and organic accretion rates were significantly different by HGM subclass. The highest mineral accretion rates were for headwater floodplains, followed by impoundments, riparian depressions, mainstem floodplains, and slopes. The highest organic accretion rates were for riparian depressions, followed by impoundments, slopes, headwater floodplains, and mainstem floodplains. The potential effects of landscape disturbance on these sedimentation rates was also investigated, in order to develop a conceptual model to predict sedimentation rates for a given wetland in a variety of landscape settings. Different HGM subclasses exhibited significantly different mineral and organic accumulation rates, and varied in their responses to landscape disturbance and spatial variability in sedimentation patterns. Characterization of wetland plant communities in these same wetlands showed clear associations between individual plant species and ability to tolerate sediment. Species were categorized as very tolerant, moderately tolerant, slightly tolerant, and intolerant based on their association with environments of varying sedimentation magnitude. In general, species that were categorized as very tolerant or moderately tolerant increased their percent cover (dominance) over the sedimentation gradient. These observations were supported by greenhouse germination trials of eight species of wetland plants under a variety of sediment depths, ranging from 0 to 2 cm.

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