Land development activities such as agriculture, clear cutting, peat mining, and the planting of forest plantations on wetlands can affect the hydrologic behavior of these ecosystems by affecting their water storage and release patterns on the landscape. The effects of these development activities on hydrologic fluxes in peatlands (Typic Medisaprists) were compared to the effects of forest management practices in North Carolina using a field-tested hydrologic simulation model (DRAINMOD). Simulations revealed that natural peat-based (Histosol) pocosin systems lose 66% (80 cm) of the 123 cm of average annual rainfall by evapo-transpiration (ET) and 34% (42 cm/yr) via annual runoff. Annual runoff values were 63 cm/yr for peat mining areas, 48 cm/yr for cleared peatlands, 46 cm/yr for peatlands converted to agriculture and 34 cm/yr for pine plantations, once the forest canopy is closed. Thus, these wetland alterations, except for forestry, significantly increased runoff and decreased ET compared to the natural ecosystem. Forest pine plantation management decreased runoff and increased ET. A case study of the effects of forest management practices was reviewed for a 15-year-old drained loblolly pine plantation growing on fine sandy loam soils (Thermic Typic umbraquults) in the coastal plains of North Carolina. Forestry activities such as thinning (i.e., reduced leaf area index by 50%) decreased ET and canopy interception and nearly doubled drainage loss (38 cm/yr to 60 cm/yr). Commonly applied forest practices, such as drainage, increased the average number of flow events with flows > 5 mm/day to 86 days per year from 26 days per year under natural conditions.
Wetlands, 14(1), 56-71.