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Professional Short Courses

COURSE TITLE: Examining interactions among vegetation and water quality in conservation wetlands of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley

Cory Shoemaker


Examining interactions among vegetation and water quality in conservation wetlands of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley

Gary Ervin and Cory Shoemaker

It is expected that intensification of agricultural activities will be required as we work to meet the food and fiber needs of an estimated 9 billion people by the year 2050. Unfortunately, intensification of agriculture has the potential to impact the environment via such processes as nutrient and pesticide runoff, erosion, and soil salinization. Wetlands in agricultural landscapes face substantial challenges because of their frequent occurrence immediately adjacent to crops, but they also can serve an important role in mitigating agricultural impacts on downstream ecosystems. For example, wetlands can retain nutrients and sediments that would have been transported to streams, lakes, and nearshore coastal environments, thus reducing impacts of eutrophication and hypoxia in coastal habitats, even when the wetlands themselves are located far inland. Our recent research has investigated the role of wetlands and wetland vegetation in mitigating impacts of agricultural practices, and we specifically have examined the relationship of wetland vegetation to nutrient and sediment contaminants. In our studies of wetlands that have been created or restored through federal conservation initiatives, we found water quality is generally similar to that of nearby non-managed wetlands, wetland species diversity appears to benefit from proximity to other land conservation practices, and plant assemblages of restored wetlands seem somewhat robust to inputs of nitrogen and sediment, within the range of those seen in intensely farmed landscapes. We did, however, find that although wetland plant assemblages generally retain their species signatures in the face of nutrient and sediment stressors, some filtering of species may be observed over time under the highest loadings of these contaminants. Additionally, we propose a tiered approach to better understand the interplay of abiotic factors influential to wetland structure and function in restored systems. Our work has the potential to inform future restoration efforts within agricultural landscapes, which will be a critical need as we look to a future of balancing these efforts while simultaneously meeting increased global demands for food and clean water.


Gary N. Ervin
Department of Biological Sciences, Mississippi State University

Gary Ervin received his B.S. (1996) and Ph.D. (2000) in Biological Sciences from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. During his doctoral studies, he worked in the area of wetland plant ecology, publishing several studies on the rush species, Juncus effusus. Following receipt of his Ph.D., Ervin held a postdoctoral research position in the Department of Entomology at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where he studied plant defense responses to insect herbivores. He began his faculty position at Mississippi State University in 2001. Research in Ervin's lab currently includes work in the area of wetlands vegetation management and invasive plant ecology.

Cory M. Shoemaker
Department of Biological Sciences, Mississippi State University

Cory Shoemaker was awarded his B.S. (2010) in Biology and French from Wittenberg University, M.S. (2013) in Wildlife and Fisheries Science, and has recently defended his Ph.D. dissertation in Biological Sciences at Mississippi State University. As a doctoral student, he examined factors driving wetland plant assemblage development in restored wetlands. Outside of his dissertation, he collected and produced a statewide survey of aquatic plant distribution and abundance across Mississippi waterbodies and examined novel approaches to managing biogeochemical processes in agricultural drainage ditches.

Credit Points: 0.06

SYLLABUS/TOPICAL OUTLINE Wetlands in agricultural landscapes can serve an important role in mitigating agricultural impacts on downstream ecosystems. This webinar presents agricultural mitigation on a landscape scale in the context that cumulative benefits from agricultural mitigation within the Mississippi basin may contribute toward reducing eutrophication and hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. A comparison is made between wetlands that were either created or restored through federal conservation initiatives and non-managed wetlands. The response of their respective wetland vegetative community structures to nutrient and sediment input is discussed, and future research is proposed, in order to better inform future restoration efforts.

Louis Mantini
9225 CR 49, Live Oak, FL 32060
P: 386.647.3144


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Society of Wetland Scientists Professional Certification Program
Last Updated 10/1/20