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Nutrients in Prairie Wetlands -- Linking Hydrology and Biology: Craig A. Stricker

Project Title: Nutrients in Prairie Wetlands: Linking Hydrology and Biology
Mendenhall Fellow: Craig A. Stricker, (303) 236-7908,
Duty Station: Denver
Start Date: October 1, 2002
Education: Ph.D. (Dual Degree: Aquatic Ecology and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior), Michigan State University, 2002
Research Advisors: Bob Rye (GD; Denver, CO), (303) 236-7907,
Glenn Guntenspergen (BRD; Duluth, MN), (218) 720-4307,

Project Description: Background—Prairie wetlands are closed basin depressions with dynamic water regimes that fluctuate in relation to climate variability and position in the landscape. Wetlands range from permanently inundated to ephemeral and are commonly interconnected with respect to local and regional hydrology. Within a landscape context, higher elevation wetlands generally function in a recharge capacity, and therefore contribute to the maintenance of water levels in lower elevation wetlands. The hydrologic interactions between these wetland functional classes have been well studied and the importance of extreme wet-dry cycles to productivity established. However, the transport and transformation of nutrients (C, N, P, and S) from recharge to discharge wetlands within the northern prairie ecosystem remain poorly understood, particularly with respect to influences on food web structure and dynamics.

Research Objectives—The goal of this study is to quantify the hydrochemical and biological interactions of recharge and discharge wetlands using a suite of stable isotopes. This represents a unique approach to studying the ecology of prairie wetlands because hydrology often regulates wetland productivity, yet direct connections between hydrology and biology have not been rigorously explored. To accomplish this goal, a series of paired wetlands encompassing both functional classes will be sampled on a seasonal basis. Specific objectives include quantifying:

  1. The exchange of water (and nutrients) and evapo-transpiration losses;
  2. The importance of microbial and chemical transformations (ex. denitrification, sulfate reduction, and sulfide oxidation) on wetland nutrient subsidies;
  3. Temporal dynamics of nutrient transformations within wetland surface waters;
  4. The proportion of nutrient subsidies (and the respective sources) incorporated into wetland food webs.

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Last modified: 16:08:33 Thu 13 Dec 2012