Before / After Restoration
From this vantage point we look back at the restored sand plain community with its large glacial erratic rocks. Directly in front of us, the restored wetland illustrates some of the specific actions that were used to transform the managed expanse of American cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) into a sustainable wetland.
We can best appreciate these restoration actions by comparing before and after views of this exact area.
This image from 2011, four years before the start of active restoration in 2015, illustrates the successional trajectory of this 13 acre cranberry bog after being abandoned (retired from farming) in 2002. The mix of Pitch pine (Pinus rigida) and Grey birch (Betula populifolia) along with some older Red maple (Acer rubra) trees suggests the beginning of an upland forest. At that time, the stream channel ran straight along the western bank of the bog.
What caused these upland species to populate this bog? The answer lies in the ubiquitous layer of sand that the farmer of applies to the bog surface every three years or so. This sand layer helps to keep the bogs level, buries leaf drop and bugs, and provides a reasonably dry sandy surface for development of the hair-roots of the American cranberry vine. When measured in 2012, this ubiquitous kit-kat layer of sand and leaf drop was almost 2 feet deep across the entire bog area!
The question the restoration team faced when developing their design was how to transform of this dry, hard sand surface in a way that could support a dynamic self-sustaining wetlands at a reasonable cost. Removing this layer entirely was too costly, so the design specified a technique called “micro-topography”. After completing the construction of the sinuous stream channel, excavator operators dug into and turned over large chunks of the sand/cranberry mat; this technique exposed some of the peat below the sand, jumpstarted a hummocks and ground-water pools across the surface of the site. Many pieces of large wood were used in the process both to help stabilize stream banks and to provide shady habitat for a variety of critters prior to the future development of tree canopy cover.