Presentation on theme: "Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Cooperative Restoration Project: Bringing back peatlands while reducing catastrophic wildfire threats Sara Ward,"— Presentation transcript:
1 Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Cooperative Restoration Project: Bringing back peatlands while reducing catastrophic wildfire threatsSara Ward, USFWS Raleigh Field OfficeTNC Fire and Pocosins Conference, October 11, 2011
2 Overview Introduction Pocosins and fire regimesHistory of fire at PLNWRRecent NC peatland firesA tool for the toolbox – peatland restoration example, Pocosin Lakes NWRRestoration approachRestoration BenefitsCostsRestoration ImplicationsSummary
3 Pre-Alteration Pocosin Fires Frequency: natural return interval determined by soil type, depth, water tableand vegetative communitySeverity: peat ground fire dependent on water table; mostly above ground fire1962 pocosin distribution (Richardson 2003)Today: 70% habitat lossHistosols – fire return interval between 7 and 300 yearsPeat bogs with plant communities like those burned at PLNWR and GDSNWR: higher end of rangeIn particular, AWC-associated return interval > 50 yearsSource: Frost, 1995
4 (in Frost, 19951)1Frost, Cecil C Presettlement fire regimes in southeastern marshes, peatlands, and swamps. Pg in S.I. Cerulean and R.T. Engstrom, eds. Fire in wetlands: a management perspective. Proc. of the Tall Timbers Fire Ecol. Conf., No Tall Timbers Res. Station, Tallahassee, FL.
5 (in Frost, 19951) PISE = pond pine 1Frost, Cecil C Presettlement fire regimes in southeastern marshes, peatlands, and swamps. Pg in S.I. Cerulean and R.T. Engstrom, eds. Fire in wetlands: a management perspective. Proc. of the Tall Timbers Fire Ecol. Conf., No Tall Timbers Res. Station, Tallahassee, FL.
6 PLNWR Fire History Allen Road Fire March 1985 95,000 ac burned Peat loss: ≤ 1 mEstimated C loss: million tons C1Evans Road Fire6/1/2008 – January 200940,704 acresPeat burnedNon Federal land (private and NC State Park): 24” over 15,350 acFederal land west of Western Rd – 12” over 16,100 acFederal land east of Western Rd – 6” over 9,650 acresEstimated C loss: ~10 million tons C1Credit: NCFS-Chris Carlson1Michler and Welch, 2011
7 2011 Peatland Wildfires in NC ~ 88K acres burned to date:Source: InciWeb, Incident Information System,
8 So, why are we seeing more frequent and severe pocosin wildfires than predicted?? In a word…drainage!Historically:Summer water table drawdown (up to 1 m+1) in domed peat caused some peat fire; rewetting regularly occurredSeasonal soil saturation limited ground fire potential; allowed vegetation to burn (necessary in pocosin ecosystems)Now:Extensive drainage network limits duration of seasonal floodingWater table is lowered; peat is aerated/drierDrainage prevents even significant rainfall (tropical) retention on landscapeMuch more frequent ground fire; significant soil loss1Ingram and Otte, 1982
10 Fire Return Interval: GDSNWR Predicted RI > 50 yrs; Actual – 3 yr. Wildfire recurring in footprint2008 South One Fire footprint2011 Lateral West Fire footprint
11 Above ground fuel reduction not always enough…need to address fire vulnerability of peat soils Hydrology restorationRaises water tableAllows water storage before (prevention) and during (suppression) wildfiresPermits above ground fire for habitat and fire management with less riskCost effectiveMany restoration “co-benefits”Credit: USFWS-V. Carver
12 Hydrology restoration: a tool for the practitioner’s toolbox PLNWR Cooperative Restoration Project ExamplePhoto: D. Suiter, USFWSHealthy pocosin wetlands
13 PLNWR : Refuge HistoryLand south of Lake Phelps ditched /drained in 60’s for ag and peat miningRefuge established 1990 with a focus on pocosin restorationHydrology restoration plan 1994Restoration and research on-going since
15 Restoration Approach Install water control structures and culverts Use raised roads along the canals as leveesRe-saturate historically drained areas via rainfallPromote sheet flow via water level managementPhoto: S.Ward, USFWSPhoto: E. Hinesley, NCSU
16 2008: PLNWR partial restoration likely helped Infrastructure completeInfrastructure in progressPlanned restorationImportantly, observations made during that fire documented that partially-restored pocosins burned far less than their neighboring drained lands. Undrained pocosins and areas where restoration work was complete did not burn.
17 Importance of pocosin restoration Benefits beyond reducing wildfire threat/impacts:Carbon and nitrogen sequestrationRestore wildlife habitat and threatened ecosystemsWater qualityAdaptation to climate changeHuman community benefitsPhoto: USFWSWater QualityDrainage network enhances Hg and nutrient delivery to sensitive downstream waters, this will fix itAquatic HabitatImprove/reconnect important essential nursery habitatAnadromous fish useTerrestrial HabitatAWC globally threatenedPond pine canebrake critically endangeredAdaptation to sea level rise by preventing incremental (oxidation) and catastrophic (burning) soil loss and promoting soil genesisPhoto: SSEC
18 Pocosin restoration = ideal N & C offset Peatland drainage promoted organic matter decomposition and loss of N and C to atmosphereRestoration stops soil loss: incremental (oxidation) and catastrophic (burning)Since acquisition in 1990, hydrology restoration a priority; project accelerated that effortDrained Conditionloss of nitrogen, C and Hg via oxidation(SOURCE)Restored Conditionnitrogen, C and Hg sequestration(SINK)
19 Emerging C Markets for “Rewetted” Peatlands In NC peatlands, sequestration driver is amount C retained that would otherwise be lost without hydrology restorationEstimated sequestration potential:200 lb/ac/year of N6500 lb/ac/year of CProject sequesters the amount of C in ~82,000 tons of CO2/yr2. Soil C as soil genesis reestablished3. Amount in AGBEmphasize that estimates are being verified now by DUWCEquivalent to the average annual CO2 impact of 11,000 AmericansPhoto: E. Hinesley, NCSU
20 Costs of RestorationConservative cost range for restoration on conservation lands between $140 (in- house) and $310 (contract) per acreWe estimate PLNWR project cost of ~ $5M if work completed through external contractsOne time investment… annual returnEncourage group to think about the costs of not doing it…Photo: E. Hinesley, NCSU
21 Restoration Implications: Avoided Losses Avoided loss of valuable ecological habitatAvoided wildfire response costs:Evans Rd – nearly $20M by Jan 2009Juniper Road - $3.5M as ofPains Bay - >$14M as of ; up to $350K/day at peakPeat soils have potential value in C markets upon restorationC trading at $10/ton, peat worth up to $139M was lost during Allen Rd and Evans Road fires combinedPeat soils exhaustible – fires can burn to depth of underlying mineral soil
22 SummaryRestoration will not prevent fire in pocosins; just promotes return to more nature fire regimeFrequency and intensity of fires in drained pocosins exceeds natural baseline for these fire-dependent habitats with significant costsEcological community impact (e.g. globally threatened AWC)Fire fighting costs/resources in tough budget timesFeet of soil loss in sea level rise vulnerable areasCO2 emissions equivalent to industrial releasesTourism and health impactsEvans Rd Fire – positive impact of partial restorationPartially-restored pocosins burned far less than neighboring drained landsUndrained pocosins and areas where restoration work was complete did not burn
23 Summary (cont.) Restoration is cost-effective preventative measure Potential for restoration projects to be important in carbon marketsRestored peatlands are a valuable resourceTook geologic time to form; support unique habitats; rapid lossValue of peat lost exceeds $100M on Evans fire aloneNew partners / external funds focused on C or N may expand restoration and even acquisition in futureC and N benefits and project costs estimated; 3-year verification study underway…those tools may help others with similar projects
24 Thanks! NCDENR William Ross Dempsey Benton NCSU Horticultural Eric HineslyU.S. Geological SurveyDuke University Wetlands CenterThe Nature ConservancyConservation FundFWS - RaleighMike WickerTom AugspurgerFWS - RefugesHoward PhillipsChris LowieMike BryantDave KittsWendy StantonFred WursterPhoto: Hollingsworth, USFWS
25 NC Pocosins with Restoration/Enhancement Potential
26 NC Pocosins with Restoration/Enhancement Potential
27 Juniper Road Fire, 2011Left: June 19, Right: July 21, Photo Credit: USGS
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