The second component of the research involves reshaping the resacas (Spanish for oxbow lakes), a key location of the battle. The wetlands (resaca) terrain has undergone much change through the years, including ditches along the banks and stock tanks across the channel that were dug to collect fresh water for livestock. The wetlands area will be one of the most intensely studied.
"The most important thing about wetlands is hydrology, hydrology, hydrology," Wu said. Hydrology dictates vegetation structure, and according to Wu, "that's what's interesting to us and so challenging."
To study this, Wu said, a series of shallow PVC wells will be dug between 8-12 feet to monitor how the hydrology fluctuates throughout the year. By altering the hydrology of the ground through restoring the shape of the resaca channel, Wu said, the group can study how it will influence the vegetation structure.
"But this is a challenge because we don't have prior knowledge or data on this," he said.
And any disturbance of the soil by machinery is a concern as well.
"The real challenge has been implying manipulative field experiments, while still respecting the significant cultural-archeological value," Whisenant said.
This is the second year of the three-year study. The formation of the park officially began in 1978 when Congress authorized its establishment two miles north of the Brownsville city limits. The National Park Service has overseen the project, and following Congressional approval in 1978, an archeological study began. But it was later deemed incomplete for planning purposes.
In 1992, Congress passed the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site Act, allowing for a more thorough assessment of the site.
Land acquisition continues as the national park that will include a lookout tower to view the actual battlefield, visitor's center, museum, trails and administrative offices.
Contact: Blair Fannin
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications