VCU Rice Center

Photo of sunlit trees
News and events
July 22, 2014

Wetland restoration update

Restoration of the 70-acre wetlands at the Rice Rivers Center is proceeding apace. Subcontractors from The Nature Conservancy have planted approximately 15,000 trees and shrubs, and an additional 10,000 plants will be planted in the fall. Vegetation monitoring starts this summer under the supervision of Dr. Ed Crawford, using undergraduate and graduate student research assistance. Dr. Len Smock, the Rice Rivers Center director, is conducting stream monitoring of Kimages Creek.

The overarching goal of the project is to restore the wetland to the state it was in before the area was dammed to create Charles Lake in the early 20th century. Researchers have examined stumps that remain from that era, and are replacing similar species in the wetlands as were originally there. Each stump is being geo-located to accurately plant replacements.

The method for identifying the original trees is multifaceted: cross-sections of stumps (“stump cookies”) are cut and brought into the lab, sanded down and identified. Graduate student Richard Ward has developed an 11-step process to identify species and determine the average age of the trees.

This process has been completed on approximately 10 percent of the stumps. A total of 4,500 stumps have been found and geo-located. It has been determined that there are approximately 15-20 species of trees native to the wetland.

With the assistance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, drones carrying high-tech instrumentation are being used to create high-resolution images of the wetland to help gauge the success of the restoration efforts.