Paleoecological Evidence of a Pre-Settlement Sedge Wetland in a Piedmont River Valley
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Recent stratigraphic analyses of macrofossil seeds in buried wetlands of the Piedmont of Maryland and southeastern Pennsylvania indicate that these prehistoric wetlands were hydro- climatically stable for several thousand years. At a river site in north central Maryland a core revealed no significant change in the sedge-dominated wetland for 4300 years until A.D. 1730. An environmental shift occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries as a result of burial of the prehistoric wetland by mill pond sediment behind dams, combined with an influx of sedimentation from extensive deforestation. This study examined seeds (macrofossils) from a series of samples extracted laterally from the core from this river bank to determine the lateral extent of the sedge wetland in the prehistoric river valley. Seeds found in the samples belong to obligate wetland species in contrast to the modern stream bank, which is lined by facultative, riparian trees. The dominant species in the prehistoric wetland was Carex stricta, the tussock sedge. Tussock sedge wetlands are a primary habitat for the endangered bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) in the mid-Atlantic region. The hydrologic and vegetative characteristics of the prehistoric wetland offer a guideline on potential wetland restoration goals, including the restoration of critical habitat for the bog turtle.