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Peatland/Wetland Restoration and Creation Research

NRRI personnel have been conducting peatland restoration work since the early 1990s and have considerable experience in restoring bog and fen sites commercially harvested for horticultural peat.  More recently, the NRRI Peat Group is also researching the potential for creating wetlands, especially in abandoned gravel pits in northeastern Minnesota, in response to the need for wetland mitigation sites.  The overall goal of this research is to help achieve no-net-loss of wetlands in compliance with state and federal policy.

Current Projects

Peatland Restoration

Peatland Restoration

NRRI personnel have been conducting peatland restoration work since the early 1990s and have considerable experience in restoring sites commercially harvested for horticultural peat. In 1997, NRRI received a $275,000 grant from the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR) for the project “Peatland Restoration”. As part of this project, several large and small scale studies were conducted on Minnesota peatlands resulting in preliminary restoration methods and recommendations.  An international peatland restoration symposium was held in Duluth as part of this project.  Reports and papers resulting from this project can be viewed here.

Much of this research follows the peatland restoration studies conducted at Laval University in Quebec which resulted in the “Peatland Restoration Guide” by Francois Quinty and Line Rochefort.  This comprehensive guide to restoring peatlands is available through the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association at


Hawkes PlotsFen Restoration

The restoration strategy used at most Minnesota and Canada peat harvesting operation sites was developed primarily for restoring bog vegetation to sites harvested for Sphagnum moss peat.   However, similar studies have not been conducted on fen peatlands harvested for sedge peat.  Several Minnesota peat operations are currently harvesting such peatlands and changes in horticultural peat use in Europe and parts of North America suggest a trend toward using more sedge peat in the future. Restoring these areas will require different management techniques to re-establish fen vegetation and prevent exotic species invasion.  NRRI’s Fen Restoration project addresses these issues.  This project was funded by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Research Institute for providing funding for this project. Click here to read the Fen Restoration Final Project Report.


Lake County WetlandLake County Wetland Creation to Enhance Migratory Bird Habitat

Lake County, Minnesota has numerous wetlands, but very few Palustrine Emergent wetlands (dominated by trees, shrubs and emergent vegitation) suitable for migratory bird habitat. There are numerous active and abandoned gravel pits in Lake County, especially along the more populated and traveled North Shore of Lake Superior.  There is an opportunity to create wetlands in abandoned County-owned gravel pits.  The goal of this project is to demonstrate methods for creating wetlands suitable for migratory bird habitat as part of rehabilitation and closure of Lake County-owned gravel pits.  This project was funded under the Coastal Zone Management Act, by NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, in conjunction with Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program and MN DNR Waters. For more information, read the full report.


Wetland MitigationWetland Mitigation in Abandoned Gravel Pits

It is becoming increasingly difficult to provide on-site mitigation for wetland impacts due to road construction in northeastern Minnesota counties which retain greater than 80 percent of their pre-settlement wetlands. Abandoned gravel pits are one of the few remaining areas which can serve as wetland mitigation sites within the impacted watersheds. The main goal of the project is to determine if viable mitigation wetlands can be created on abandoned gravel pit sites to compensate for wetland impacts due to road construction in northeastern Minnesota. To achieve this goal a wetland creation demonstration site will be established in an abandoned gravel pit within the U.S. Trunk Highway 53 reconstruction corridor. The site will allow research and evaluation of hydrologic controls, soil amendments, direct seeding, mulch, and other techniques for wetland establishment. The research will result in preliminary recommendations for creating wetlands in abandoned gravel pits.  Funding for the project is provided by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.



For a complete list of puplications by NRRI Peat Group, click here.