Proposal for Local Studies
Kenyon College has ownership of a very unique wetland through the Brown Family Environmental Center (BFEC). For many years this wetland was grazed by cattle that flocked into the open area from a nearby farm. In the spring of 2000, a fence was put up around a large portion of the wetland in an attempt to allow natural restoration. However, part of the unfenced wetland continues to be grazed, while a portion of the wetland closest to Wolf Run remains undisturbed (it was never grazed). The unusual history of the BFEC wetland makes for some very interesting studies on wetland restoration.
It is proposed that the invertebrate and amphibian communities are different in the natural, restored, and degraded areas of the BFEC wetland. The diversity in the degraded portion of the wetland is most likely very low due to extensive degradation. The invertebrate diversity in the restored portion is probably the highest because the environmental structure is still changing, thus it can support many different types of invertebrates. However, the restored portion of the wetland does not seem to have the same hydrology as many of the natural wetlands I have encountered; therefore, it is hypothesized that the amphibian diversity will be low. The natural area of the wetland most likely supports very sensitive amphibians and invertebrates, but the biodiversity of these organisms will probably be low due to niche differentiation.
In order to test these hypotheses, it is suggested that a long-term study be conducted. The number of individuals as well as the species richness of invertebrates and amphibians can be collected in each area of the wetland. Environmental variables, such as soil content, nutrient availability, hydrology, and supported flora should also be measured. Changes in time can be compared between the three areas of wetland, and diversity can be correlated to the environmental variables for a better understanding of what influences community structure.
A long-term study on amphibian and invertebrate recolonization of wetlands would be a noteworthy study because both amphibians and invertebrates can be used as ecological indicators. Not only would the current health of the wetland be assessed, changes over time in wetland health could be observed. A baseline study like this would be influential in the scientific community, especially policy makers and wetland specialists who could use this study as groundwork for future wetland policy and assessment.