Abstract: Session E  4:20 pm (Back to Session E)
Vegetation and Hydrology Response to the Restoration of Tributary Wetlands in the Valles Caldera National Preserve Using the Plug and Pond Method

Steve Vrooman
Keystone Restoration Ecology
Santa Fe, NM

Authors: Steve Vrooman, MS, Kina Murphy, PhD, Jonathan Coop, PhD, William Zeedyk

In the Southwestern United States, it is widely accepted that anthropogenic forcings such as climate change, roads, railways,1 logging and overgrazing,2 have caused the degradation of 50% of local riparian areas, wetlands and alluvial fans3.  One effective technique for restoring channelized grasslands, wetlands and alluvial fans is the plug and pond method. The “Pond and Plug” treatment for wetland restoration in perennial systems was initially developed by Dr. David Rosgen for application in lower elevation meadow systems in north central California4. The method involves creating plugs (dams) of soil and vegetation at specific locations in incised channels to divert stream flow back into abandoned channels, wetlands or alluvial fans.  A pond is formed by excavating material for the plug and fills with water, raising the water table. 

While the plug and pond method was originally used for wetland restoration, practitioners have also used these treatments for dryland restoration to spread water back out across former grassland “sheet flow” areas. Nutrients and sediment are deposited and vegetation is irrigated.  It also creates a landscape that is more resilient to disturbance, which will become increasingly important as climate change persists.  Perhaps most importantly, it restores shallow groundwater levels and increases groundwater storage, which is critical to the survival of wetland vegetation communities.

Since 2005, the plug and pond treatment was implemented in four different valleys throughout the Valles Caldera National Preserve in the Jemez Mountains of Northern New Mexico.  Monitoring showed large gains in wetland vegetation cover, water table elevations, and wetland area.  Wetland area increased by over 185% at the Six Tributaries (Tribs) project site on the San Antonio watershed and by 800% at the Valle Seco project site. Plug and pond techniques can be used over wide areas at low cost to restore watersheds to historic wetland conditions.

1 Ffolliott, & DeBano 2005
2 Kauffman & Krueger 1984; Fleischner 1994; Trimble & Mendel 1995
3 Jenson & Platts 1990, Tausch et al 2004
4 Wilcox, 20