Breath of Clarity

Persuasion and Treatment Wetlands

1. As managers and/or policy makers you will have to know how to use the powers of persuasion as well as the science. Pick one of these websites or find one you like better and discuss what you like about their suggestions on how to make a persuasive argument.

The article from the American Psychological Association (APA) draws from social psychology research to encourage more environmentally friendly behaviors (Tracy 2005). I was impressed to see that the findings are based on studies that span for more than 30 years. Psychologists’ applied research finds that a more effective message might be one that depicts that most people are doing the conservation behavior–which encourages others to do it, too (Tracy 2005). It makes sense that social norms spur behavior. It was also beneficial to see that the article provided a description of the experimental designs that led researchers to their conclusions. Additionally, it was useful to see how researchers are strategizing to spread their information about how social psychology effectively influences persuasion intended to support the environment. Researchers, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, developed a handbook for environmental managers in local governments, national parks and the like to use in developing scientifically sound pro-environment interventions (Tracy 2005). Psychologists need to help make community leaders and environmental managers aware of the research so they can craft more effective messages.

Further, the popular media’s common gloom and doom message is ineffective in changing how people behave to promote conservation. I agree with the claim. People tune out quickly, whether it be from a sense of hopelessness, they feel at fault, or they simply don’t like negative conversations. While it is important to address what is going on and not understate environmental issues or look at them through rose colored glasses, there is a need to inspire others to want to help and take interest and action. Painting climate change or imperiled species as hopeless issues will not spark inspiration because any action is seen as something that will be doomed to fail. I found another article to support the argument. In her article, Catriona McKinnon (2014) analyzes two manifestations of despair about climate change related to the inefficacy of personal emissions reductions and the inability to make a difference to climate change through personal emissions reductions. She argued that judgements grounding each form of despair are unsound (McKinnon 2014). From there, she explored the fundamental value of hope in effective agency to tackle climate change (McKinnon 2014). Hope can increase the probability that a person’s agency achieves its purpose, and so can galvanise the person’s will as it aims at this purpose (McKinnon 2014). Kareiva and Marvier (2012, 967) continue, asserting that conservationists, scientists, and the media overall need to consider psychology and how they frame their messages. Constant negativity is not going to encourage people to learn more about the environment, conservation, and how they can help. Providing more uplifting and positive messages, and increasing exposure to the environment for children and adults alike can do wonders for a 21st century environmental movement.

2. Design & construct a treatment wetland using information from the textbook. The class has to guess what type of wetland you constructed – a treatment wetland that is natural wetland, or the constructed wetlands .. surface, or subsurface.

First and foremost, wetlands should be designed to maximize ecosystem longevity and efficiency, as well as minimize cost (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 623). I would start by undertaking a detailed hydrological study of the site, including a determination of the potential interaction of groundwater with the proposed wetland (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 625). Groundwater inflow is often desired because if offers a more predictable seasonal water source (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 625). Also, a wetland fed by ground water invariably has better water quality and generally fewer sediments that will eventually fill the wetland (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 627). Although having local topography allowing for the wetland to be flooded without control devices is rarely available (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 627), I would make it a priority while selecting the site. Control devices are quite costly and have a wide array of other disadvantages. They require occasional maintenance, even if it is only for removing accumulation of plant debris and resetting stop logs (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 626). Stop log removal by vandals is a major problem. Additionally, beavers create blockages in control devices such as risers, as they can raise the water level by a meter or more, which dramatically changes the vegetation patterns (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 627).

Considering that my goal is productivity and carbon sequestration, I would not plant as long as there are sources of plant propagules such as seed banks or inflowing rivers (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 634). To verify, I would evaluate on-site and nearby seed banks to ascertain their viability and response to hydrological conditions (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 625). If necessary, I would introduce as many native choices as possible (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 633). At the beginning, I would support the process by selectively weeding in order to sort out certain species away from others in a timely fashion (Mitsch and Gosselink 633). I would keep in mind that vegetation develops over several years, and therefore the best thing to do is give the system time to flourish (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 638).

3. You have been put in charge of restoring the wetland you described in your first assignment. Using the information on pages 623-639 in the textbook discuss how you would restore the hydrology or improve it and at least 1 other method you would use to restore your wetland.

The wetland from my first assignment is a freshwater peat bog in North Carolina called Jonas Ridge. I found a great article discussing the impact of restoration on the hydrology of an abandoned block-cut bog. Artificial drainage networks established throughout peatlands during the peat extraction process often remain active following abandonment, maintaining a water table relatively far from the surface of the peat, and hindering the survival and reestablishment of Sphagnum mosses (Ketcheson and Price 2011). As an initial restoration effort, the primary drainage network of an abandoned cutover peatland was blocked with a series of peat dams, consequently reducing the runoff efficiency and causing the site-average water table to rise by 32 cm (Ketcheson and Price 2011). Higher water tables and a blocked drainage network resulted in increased runoff variability, dependent upon antecedent conditions, capacity to retain additional water on-site, and event-based precipitation dynamics (Ketcheson and Price 2011). Evapotranspiration (ET) rates were 25% higher following rewetting, 3.6 mm day−1, compared to pre-restoration ET rates of 2.7 mm day−1 (Ketcheson and Price 2011). Total storage changes were restricted following rewetting, as a factor of the reduced runoff losses limiting water table drawdown, thereby constraining peat compression and preventing undue drying of the unsaturated zone (Ketcheson and Price 2011). An average surface level rebound of 3 cm was observed, increasing the mean hydraulic conductivity by an order of magnitude (Ketcheson and Price 2011). Changes to the system hydrology following restoration efforts produced hydrological conditions more favorable for the recolonization of Sphagnum mosses (Ketcheson and Price 2011). I would use this project as a model to restore the Jonas Ridge bog’s hydrology.

Additionally, I would take sow Sphagnum moss into the plot. A replicated, randomized, paired, controlled, before-and-after study in 2007–2010 in two historically disturbed bogs in Ontario, Canada found that plots sown with Sphagnum moss fragments had greater bryophyte cover, after three years, than unsown plots (Corson and Campbell 2013). This was true for both Sphagnum moss cover (sown: 38–52%; unsown: 8%) and total bryophyte cover (sown: 66–76%; unsown: 26%). So, I would do that. Surprisingly, the study also determined that creating mounds and hollows before planting had no effect on bryophyte cover (Corson and Campbell 2013). Also, the research found that planting nurse herbs before sowing the Sphagnum moss had no effect on bryophyte cover (Corson and Campbell 2013). That said, I would not put resources into creating the mounds and hollows or planting nurse herbs (Corson and Campbell 2013). That way, my project would be as efficient as possible.


Corson A. and Campbell D. 2013. “Testing protocols to restore disturbed Sphagnum-dominated peatlands in the Hudson Bay Lowland”. Wetlands. 33: 291-299.

Kareiva, Peter, and Michelle Marvier. 2012. “What is Conservation Science?” BioScience. 62(11): 962-969.

Ketcheson, Scott and Jonathan Price. 2011. “The Impact of Peatland Restoration on the Site Hydrology of an Abandoned Block-Cut Bog”. Wetlands. 31: 1263-1274.

McKinnon, Catriona. 2014. “Climate Change: Against Despair.” Ethics and the Environment. 19(1): 31-48.

Mitsch, William J., and James G. Gosselink. 2015. Wetlands. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Tracy, Melissa Dittman. 2005. “Crafting persuasive pro-environment messages”. Monitor. 36(9): 44.

Comment by Lauren Winter:

Hi Mary,

Reading over your response to question #2, I’d like to take a guess. I had a little trouble deciding if your wetland was a mangrove forest or a tidal salt water marsh. They share many characteristics that you mention, including inflowing rivers, twin goals of productivity & carbon sequestration, groundwater flow and allowing for the wetland to be flooded without control devices. I really wasn’t sure how I would distinguish them; you mentioned that you wouldn’t plant if seed banks are available and on pg. 633 of the textbook: “The successful salt marsh restoration at Delaware Bay did not require any seeding or planting.” and also “Samson, Rollon, and Lewis found that plantings of mangrove seedlings was often a big waste of time and resources.”

What made me finally decide it must be a mangrove forest is mentioning using the rivers as a way to transport propagules, which as far as I can determine is unique (between the two) to mangrove wetlands (Wang, Li, Wang, 2019).


My Reply:

Hi Lauren,

Yes, correct, and it is a treatment wetland that is natural wetland!

Comment by Jenny Kelley:

Mary –

Hi, I really like your take on question 1. Since I started my little nature sanctuary, and we have yet to buy property, I have been doing a blog to keep our brand out there and get people interested. I did some research on how to present environmental issues to the general public in order to attract people from different backgrounds and to eliminate potential for ticking people off. We live in such a divisive and divided world right now. One idea that seeped through all the recommendations was your point, present as much as you can in the positive. People do get discouraged with the onslaught of dire news, no matter how real that news is. I am trying to start with focused success stories and then delve into the need to restore similar areas. I feel that by focusing on one or two areas, starting with positive, my audience is more interested in helping. It gives them something tangible and positive to see, and when I include how communities are involved in the success, I find that is empowering to other communities. It kind of goes both ways though, without the news, without the studies and advocates telling the public the sky is indeed really falling, it would be hard to focus first on positives. I’m still figuring that last one out.


Comment by Colleen Monahan:

Hi Mary!

Regarding your answer to question 1 when you use the popular gloom and doom example, I love that you said we should inspire people rather than make them feel hopeless. This is honestly one of the best descriptions I’ve read and you hit it right on the nail. That’s why I like the APAs site myself. The focus on the positive helps people feel more motivated to do what they can, especially if others are already doing it creating a sort of “norm” in the action. As you stated, the doom and gloom message is old news at this point and just helps to get people discouraged from even trying because “there’s no point now.” Why waste effort to help if it’s too late? However, by turning it around and using positive messages and inspiring actions we can create a more positive response as well as potentially increase the likelihood of people listening instead of tuning it out. Great post!

Comment by Kathryn Flanagan:

Hi Mary, Jenny, Colleen, and Lauren,

RE: Q1 – Great discussion. I agree that the doom and gloom approach to environmental problems turned off more people than this approach inspired. And often after some dire comment is made the site asks for a donation. Although this idea must work because so many groups use it, I would rather like to see hope and inspiration, as you mentioned.

Comment by Jenny Kelley:

Hi Mary –


I think you are describing a natural wetland because you are using what is already within the ecosystem, after detailed assessment. You allowing existing seedlings along the banks to repopulate and examining seedlings upriver while considering carbon sequestration seems to me to be a self design plan. Although weeding and planting plans are throwing me off a bit. I too used self design and natural wetland for my answer to question 2 and discussed the idea of planting native species and, now, I would add the removal of invasive species. As well, eliminating levee and other expensive control devices tells me that your using natural wetland construction methods. Let me know if I am right when you get a chance, please! :)


My Reply:

Hi Jenny,

Correct, I am describing a natural wetland!