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Building research capacity in Southern Appalachian mountain wetlands

Active Dates 9/1/2022-8/31/2024
Program Area Atmospheric System Research
Project Description
Mountain wetlands are among the rarest natural habitats in the Southern Appalachians and are home to a variety of rare, threatened,

and endangered species. Southern Appalachian mountain wetlands occur in headwater catchments, are small, isolated, and vulnerable
to changes in local hydrology, land use, and climate change. Many have been ditched, drained, or converted to other land uses; the
Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2015 in an effort to conserve remaining mountain wetland habitats and the
rare and endangered endemic species that rely on them. 

The Principal Investigator (PI) for this project, Dr. Jeff Wilcox of the University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA) has studied wetland
hydrology at over a dozen priority sites in Western North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, and North Georgia, working in collaboration with private landowners, land conservation organizations, and state and federal agencies. Results from these projects have been used to
design and monitor the impacts of a variety of wetland restoration strategies including controlled fire, stormwater management, and
woody vegetation removal.

Southern Appalachian mountain wetlands provide an ideal setting to investigate a variety of Earth and Environmental Systems Sciences Division (EESSD) research priorities in ecosystem and watershed sciences, climate and Earth system modeling, and climate resilience. The wetlands occur at groundwater-surface water, mountain-valley, and—often—developed/undeveloped transition zones. While larger wetland systems may respond slowly to long-term climate changes, mountain wetlands tend to respond relatively quickly to shorter-term droughts and extreme precipitation events. As weather extremes are expected to become more common place, they are likely to impact mountain wetlands in ways that might be overlooked by larger-scale models.

This project is designed to facilitate future collaborative research between the PI (UNC Asheville) and Department of Energy (DOE) and academic research partners. The PI will become more familiar with EESSD-sponsored research and priority research areas, identify
potential research partners, and meet with those potential partners to generate concrete collaborative research ideas for future
DOE-EESSD proposals. 

UNC Asheville is a 3000-student, undergraduate public liberal arts institution that prides itself on small classes, hands-on learning
experiences, and undergraduate research opportunities. It has been recognized in recent years in college guidebooks under
“Best Schools for Making an Impact” and “Top Performers on Social Mobility.” This project will hopefully lead to future research
opportunities for a diverse group of students at UNC Asheville, who will be able to work not only with the PI, but with researchers, faculty, grad students, or post-docs from other institutions.
Award Recipient(s)
  • University of North Carolina at Asheville (PI: Wilcox, Jeffrey)