Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.

Degree Granting Department

Geography, Environment and Planning

Major Professor

Philip Reeder

Keywords

birds, Colt Creek, hydrology, marsh, swamp, vegetation

Abstract

The purpose of the study is to identify and quantify the hydrologic and ecologic differences between two adjacent sections of Colt Creek; one section unaltered and one section altered by clearing and drainage. These differences were measured by monitoring water levels, groundcover vegetation in each of the two areas, and monitoring numbers and species of birds utilizing the two areas. Surface water levels were measured in three locations: in the historic Colt Creek flow way, in the ditch draining the creek, and in an adjacent wetland strand. In addition, a shallow monitor well in the creek was used to measure groundwater levels when the creek was dry. The intent of avian monitoring was to use birds as a relatively easily observable surrogate for wildlife habitat utilization in general. Groundcover vegetation species and approximate percent cover data were recorded at several locations in both wetlands. Data collection occurred from January 2010 to January 2011.

The results indicate that the hydrology, vegetation, and avian utilization of the two adjacent areas were substantially different. Specifically, the hydroperiod during the monitoring period was seven weeks shorter in duration in the downstream area than in the upstream unaltered area. In addition, the presence of flowing water, i.e., stream flow, through the downstream area was approximately 18 weeks less than the upstream area. Vegetation species composition, diversity, and percent cover also differed in the two areas. A total of 39 groundcover species were identified in the two sites. Seven (7) additional plants were identified to genus. Twenty one species (74.9 %) of all plants identified were common to both areas. Sixteen species (41.0 %) were found only in the unaltered site and 10 species (25.6 %) were found only in the altered site. Species richness was greater in the unaltered site while percent cover was less, i.e., more bare ground / plant litter. Relative percent cover by wetland species in the unaltered site was 11.8 percent greater than in the altered site. Finally, avian utilization was greater in the altered area, as 484 individual birds and 27 species were identified in the altered site compared to 138 individual birds and 13 different species identified in the unaltered area.

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