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Title: Operational restoration of the Pen Branch bottomland hardwood and swamp wetlands - the research setting

The Savannah River Swamp is a 3020 Ha forested wetland on the floodplain of the Savannah River and is located on the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site (SRS) near Aiken, SC. Historically the swamp consisted of approximately 50 percent bald cypress-water tupelo stands, 40 percent mixed bottomland hardwood stands, and 10 percent shrub, marsh, and open water. Creek corridors were typical of Southeastern bottomland hardwood forests. The hydrology was controlled by flooding of the Savannah River and by flow from four creeks that drain into the swamp prior to flow into the Savannah River. Upstream dams have caused some alteration of the water levels and timing of flooding within the floodplain. Major impacts to the swamp hydrology occurred with the completion of the production reactors and one coal-fired powerhouse at the SRS in the early 1950's. Water was pumped from the Savannah River, through secondary heat exchangers of the reactors, and discharged into three of the tributary streams that flow into the swamp. Flow in one of the tributaries, Pen Branch, was typically 0.3 m3 s-1 (10-20) cfs prior to reactor pumping and 11.0 m3 s-1 (400 cfs) during pumping. This continued from 1954 to 1988 at various levels.more » The sustained increases in water volume resulted in overflow of the original stream banks and the creation of additional floodplains. Accompanying this was considerable erosion of the original stream corridor and deposition of a deep silt layer on the newly formed delta. Heated water was discharged directly into Pen Branch and water temperature in the stream often exceeded 65 degrees C. The nearly continuous flooding of the swamp, the thermal load of the water, and the heavy silting resulted in complete mortality of the original vegetation in large areas of the floodplain. In the years since pumping was reduced, early succession has begun in some affected areas. Most of this has been herbs, grasses, and shrubs. Areas that have seedlings are generally willow thickets that support a lower diversity of wildlife. No volunteer seedlings of heavy-seeded hardwoods or cypress have been found in the corridor areas. Research was conducted to determine methods to reintroduce tree species characteristic of more mature forested wetlands. Three restoration strategies were formulated to deal with the differing conditions of the Upper Corridor, the Lower Corridor, and the Delta regions of the impacted area. Site preparation and planting of each area with mixtures of tree species were carried out to speed the restoration of the ecosystem. Species composition and selection were altered based on the current and expected hydrological regimes that the reforestation areas will be experiencing. Because of the operational design of the restoration project, a research program naturally followed to document the success. Many of those efforts are detailed here.« less
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
ISSN 0925-8574; TRN: US0004065
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Ecological Engineering; Other Information: Submitted to Ecological Engineering (ECENEL); (5 Jan 2000); PBD: 5 Jan 2000
Research Org:
Savannah River Site (US)
Sponsoring Org:
US Department of Energy (US)
Country of Publication:
United States