Margo, Michael Ray (2003-05). Restoration of resaca wetlands and associated wet prairie habitats at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site. Master's Thesis.
Cultivation and drainage projects associated with livestock production have substantially disturbed resaca wetlands and wet prairie habitats in southern Texas. As a consequence of the anthropogenic disturbances, the area of these wetlands has been reduced and the ecological integrity of the remaining wetlands has been compromised. The goal of this study was to explore effective strategies for ecological restoration of coastal prairie and resaca ecosystems in south Texas and provide restoration recommendations to the National Park Service at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site (NHS). Field experiments were conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of different approaches for restoring Spartina spartinae on disturbed saline flats. A resaca hydrologic study was initiated to evaluate the groundwater hydrology in disturbed versus undisturbed resaca wetlands and explore potential restoration strategies. Transplanting S. spartinae in the fall season was more successful (80% survivability) than seeding (0% initial establishment), spring transplanting (0% survival), spring and fall mechanical transplanting (0% and 6% survivability, respectively). Soil disturbance significantly affected (p < 0.05) survival of transplanted tillers and basal diameter of both the bare root and container-grown transplants in the fall manual treatments. The initial hydrologic study of the resaca wetlands found that vegetation rooting zone hydrology was likely dependent on surface water rather than groundwater. These findings suggest that strategies that restore surface hydrologic regimes will likely restore the ecosystem structure and function of disturbed resacas. Manually transplanting bare-root stock of S. spartinae in the late fall season without soil disturbance will increase the likelihood of successful saline flat restoration.