Hydrologic patterns and soil characteristics were investigated at three high-elevation wetlands in southeastern Kentucky, Martins Fork, Kentenia, and Four Level. Despite below-normal precipitation, water tables at all sites remained within 35 cm of the surface and fluctuated seasonally with peak heights during early spring. Seasonal precipitation contributed substantially to Martins Fork hydrology, while ground water was the primary hydrologic source for Kentenia and Four Level. Vertical hydraulic gradients varied among the sites. Martins Fork was distinguished by strong seasonal downwelling, while Kentenia and Four Level exhibited upwelling and downwelling patterns. All sites exhibited prominent soil hydromorphic features immediately below the surface horizon, moderate organic carbon content (< 6.5%), and a pH range between 4.4 and 6.2 according to the buffering capacities of local lithologies. The sites were dominated by sandy loam texture and siliceous mineralogy, reflecting the influence of sandstone parent materials prevalent in the area. Radiocarbon dating established that soil surface layers (≤ 30 cm) dated less than 250 years B.P., while soil horizons at 100-cm depths varied from 770–1,870 years B.P. Mean C sequestration rates ranged from 0.025 kg C m−2 at Four Level to 0.043 kg C m−2 for Martins Fork and Kentenia, with C accumulation in the upper 100 cm in the range of 19.5–36.7 kg C m−2. Each wetland exhibited distinctive hydrologic and soil properties derived from geologic, geomorphic, and vegetative influences.
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Vol. 27 • No. 1