Joy Zedler's work highlighted in Scientific American

Scientific American magazineThree tiny swales in the Arboretum were described by Scientific American writer John Carey as “pointing the way” for restoring much larger wetlands in faraway places.

Carey asked if all the important services that historical wetlands once provided can be restored in a single wetland? An interdisciplinary research team had spent the previous three years seeking the answer; they were Principal Investigators,  Dr. Joy Zedler (Botany), Dr. Steve Loheide (Civil and Environmental Engineering [CEE]) and Dr. Anita Thompson (Biological Systems Engineering [BSE]) and their respective Research Assistants, Jim Doherty (Botany), Jeff Miller (CEE) and Stephanie Prellwitz (BSE).

After sampling six services (plant productivity, support of diversity, reduction of flood peaks, storage of floodwater, removal of nutrients and sediments, and resistance to soil erosion) the Arboretum’s three swales (constructed in 2009) displayed a tradeoff between high plant productivity and the other five services. That suggested to Carey that restorationists might not expect to provide all services at once and probably shouldn’t promise to do so.  

If all goals can’t be achieved in one place at one time, restorations could set one or two priorities. John Carey correctly identified a top priority for all wetlands, namely, restoring the “right” hydrology. Zedler agrees; if the historical hydroperiods are restored, a site should have greater potential for providing multiple services. Such was the case in Delaware Bay, where fish populations were restored by re-connecting diked lands even if the outcome is not identical to some historical, multi-functional condition, to tidal flows. Not only did fish rebound; so did the tidal marsh vegetation.


Carey, John. 2013.  Architects of the swamp.  Scientific American. 2013. December issue, pages 74-79.