Wetlands Restoration: How to Identify Hydric Soils in 3 Easy Steps

Hydric Soils
hydric and upland soils comparrison

The difference between Hydric and Upland Soils

Wetlands comprise a number of specific components.  As such, it's important to be able to identify each of these components. So let’s have a look at hydric soils. Hydric soils are formed in areas that are saturated, flooded or have ponding during a growing season causing the soil to become anaerobic, or lacking in air/oxygen. This short article should help you to identify a vital part of any wetlands system. Thus, keep reading to learn how to identify hydric soils in 3 simple steps. The first step is identifying where you think areas of hydric soils may be located. You actually need to do this because the successful restoration of any wetland requires the identification of hydric soils. You must avoid areas where water doesn't pond, areas on steep slopes, hill tops, areas with dry and dusty soil and most importantly areas that have no water source(s). Complete this step correctly and completely. This is very important. If it’s not done properly, for whatever reason, then you will not only be wasting your time but also a lot of energy for no return. The second step is going to be looking at the ground surface and surrounding area for signs that may indicate the presence of hydric soils. Things you are looking for here are
  1. a buildup of organic material such as decomposing leaves on the ground surface,
  2. plants that are mainly grasses and similar non-woody plants,
  3. woody plants with roots that are wide spread, that may have knees or knobs,
  4. ground that is gently sloping away from a depression,
  5. the presence of small perennial or ephemeral streams less than 1 foot deep.
Other indicators are depressions containing pools of water, water marks or drift lines on trees and fence posts, nearby streams that are no more than 4 feet below the ground surface. It's a good idea to stay away from areas with woody vegetation that generally grows higher than 5 feet, as well as landscaped areas, and areas containing structures that would be inundated if a wetland was re-introduced. The final step is to dig a hole about 12 inches deep.. This is really very important because it will allow you to confirm the presence or absence of hydric soils. You're going to be looking for a couple of specific things. First off; things are looking good if the hole fills with water. Second, if the soil is hydric it should be gray/black in color and may have reddish blotches or mottles. Third, it may have decomposed vegetation in the upper parts. Finally, the soil may have a “rotten egg” odor.  If the soil has any or all of these characteristics then the chances are that you’ve located hydric soils. Remember, just follow the steps as specified above and you should have no difficulties when it comes to identifying hydric soils.

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