Integrated stream and wetland restoration: A watershed approach to improved water quality on the landscape

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Water quality in Upper Sandy Creek, a headwater stream for the Cape Fear River in the North Carolina Piedmont, is impaired due to high N and P concentrations, sediment load, and coliform bacteria. The creek and floodplain ecosystem had become dysfunctional due to the effects of altered storm water delivery following urban watershed development where the impervious surface reached nearly 30% in some sub-watersheds. At Duke University, an 8-ha Stream and Wetland Assessment Management Park (SWAMP) was created in the lower portion of the watershed to assess the cumulative effect of restoring multiple portions of stream and former adjacent wetlands, with specific goals of quantifying water quality improvements. To accomplish these goals, a three-phase stream/riparian floodplain restoration (600m), storm water reservoir/wetland complex (1.6ha) along with a surface flow treatment wetland (0.5ha) was ecologically designed to increase the stream wetland connection, and restore groundwater wetland hydrology. The multi-phased restoration of Sandy Creek and adjacent wetlands resulted in functioning riparian hydrology, which reduced downstream water pulses, nutrients, coliform bacteria, sediment, and stream erosion. Storm water event nutrient budgets indicated a substantial attenuation of N and P within the SWAMP project. Most notably, (NO 2 - +NO 3 - )-N loads were reduced by 64% and P loads were reduced by 28%. Sediment retention in the stormwater reservoir and riparian wetlands showed accretion rates of 1.8cmyear -1 and 1.1cmyear -1 , respectively. Sediment retention totaled nearly 500MTyear -1 . © 2010 Elsevier B.V.






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Richardson, CJ, N Flanagan, M Ho and J Pahl (2011). Integrated stream and wetland restoration: A watershed approach to improved water quality on the landscape. Ecological Engineering, 37(1). pp. 25–39. 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2010.09.005 Retrieved from

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Curtis J. Richardson

Research Professor of Resource Ecology in the Division of Environmental Science and Policy

Curtis J. Richardson is Professor of Resource Ecology and founding Director of the Duke University Wetland Center in the Nicholas School of the Environment. Dr. Richardson earned his degrees from the State University of New York and the University of Tennessee.

His research interests in applied ecology focus on long-term ecosystem response to large-scale perturbations such as climate change, toxic materials, trace metals, flooding, or nutrient additions. He has specific interests in phosphorus nutrient dynamics in wetlands and the effects of environmental stress on plant communities and ecosystem functions and services. The objectives of his research are to utilize ecological principles to develop new approaches to environmental problem solving. The goal of his research is to provide predictive models and approaches to aid in the management of ecosystems.

Recent research activities: 1) wetland restoration of plant communities and its effects on regional water quality and nutrient biogeochemical cycles, 2) the development of ecosystem metrics as indices of wetland restoration success, 3) the effects of nanomaterial on wetland and stream ecosystem processes, 4) the development of ecological thresholds along environmental gradients, 5) wetland development trends and restoration in coastal southeastern United States, 6) the development of an outdoor wetland and stream research and teaching laboratory on Duke Forest, 7) differential nutrient limitation (DNL) as a mechanism to overcome N or P limitations across trophic levels in wetland ecosystems, and 8) carbon sequestration in coastal North Carolina pocosins.

Richardson oversees the main analytical lab in NSOE, which is open to students and faculty. Dr. Richardson has been listed in Who's Who in Science™ annually since 1989 and was elected President of the Society of Wetland Scientists in 1987-88. He has served on many editorial review committees for peer-reviewed scientific journals, and he is a past Chair of the Nicholas School Division of Environmental Sciences and Policy. Dr. Richardson is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society of Wetland Scientists, and the Soil Science Society of America.


Neal Flanagan

Visiting Assistant Professor

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