Stewardship Corner | Mosses, Liverworts, and Lichen

From the Stewardship Corner | Mosses, Liverworts, and Lichen

An often-overshadowed part of the plant kingdom, mosses, liverworts, and hornworts, make up a small world of their own in ecological communities. Often found growing on stones, stumps, and moist shady corners, these organisms play a quiet but vital role in initiating soil formation, slowing water passage, and recycling nutrients. They also provide habitat for macroinvertebrates, and for them, a mossy mat might feel like a fully grown forest. Unlike other plants, these green fuzzy mats do not form vascular systems that can move nutrients and water throughout their bodies, they instead rely on water and nutrients to come to them. This is why you often find them growing in wet, damp, low lying areas where water and moisture can find them.

Like ferns – mosses, liverworts, and hornworts do not produce flowers or seeds, and instead reproduce through spores. Because of their simpler requirements, these plants can grow where nothing else can, and often act as a pioneer species setting the stage for ecological succession. Their spores can travel miles before landing and spread by the millions. They are also a great indicator of air quality due to their sensitive nature, a welcoming sign while on a walk in the woods.

Lichen is another great indicator of air quality, and although they might look similar and grow alongside their counterparts, lichen is a wholly different form of fascinating life. Lichen is the result of a mutualistic relationship between algae and fungi. While they are not a plant, they still perform photosynthesis as a composite organism. Small but mighty, these species are considered to be keystone species in many ecological communities. How many different species of mosses, liverworts, hornworts, and lichen have you come across recently?

Pictured from Wildlands project sites:

  1. Tortula Moss (Tortula muralis) – Honey Mill Mitigation Site, Surry County, NC
  2. Delicate Fern Moss (Thuidium delicatulum) – Key Mill Mitigation Site, Surry County, NC
  3. Star Moss (Syntrichia ruralis) – Alexander Farm Mitigation Site, Alexander County, NC
  4. Broom Forkmoss (Dicranum scoparium) – Honey Mill Mitigation Site, Surry County, NC
  5. Medusa Moss (Hedwigia ciliata) – Carpenter Bottom Mitigation Site, Gaston County, NC
  6. Great Scented Liverwort (Conocephalum conicum) – Carpenter Bottom Mitigation Site, Gaston County, NC
  7. Lichen (Parmeliaceae) – Lone Hickory Mitigation Site, Yadkin County, NC

📸 Photos by Dominic Dixon, Stewardship Associate | Charlotte, NC Office

  • Tortula Moss (Tortula muralis) – Honey Mill Mitigation Site, Surry County, NC

#wildlandsengineering #stewardshipcorner #ecology #landstewardship #moss #nonvascular #habitatbuilding #environmentalscience #streamrestoration #wetlands #conservation #lichen #liverwort

Wildlands plays a role in the 2023 NADO Award for Land of Sky Regional Council Project

The Land of Sky Regional Council (LOSRC) was recently awarded the 2023 NADO Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Award for their project “Regional Stormwater Services Program – MS4 Information Management System.” The system was configured by Wildlands Engineering for LOSRC who funded and deployed this technology across multiple jurisdictions (Fletcher, Woodfin, Black Mountain, and Weaverville) for a fraction of the cost of typical management systems. It provides a low-cost alternative for smaller jurisdictions that do not use a digital asset management system for stormwater infrastructure.

The MS4 Information Management System is a low-cost alternative for smaller jurisdictions that do not use a digital asset management system for stormwater infrastructure. The MS4 Information Management System is an integrated documentation system for stormwater outfall inspections – both for identifying maintenance needs and for discovering possible illicit discharges; it can also be used for reporting.

The system is built on the esri GIS platform and centrally hosted and managed in ArcGIS Online (AGOL) by LOSRC. Proactive stormwater management is crucial to protecting water quality. LOSRC aims to map all the stormwater systems in the region and uses this system to provide a simple field-based mobile app to support inspections and maintenance. Communities can access the platform anywhere and it’s designed to be used on a tablet or smartphone in the field. The system consists of inspection forms (ArcGIS Survey123), a locationally aware mobile map (ArcGIS Field Maps), and the stormwater system inventory (AGOL). Surveys documenting illicit discharges and/or high priority storm maintenance requirements will trigger an email to the corresponding town public works director. Survey123 also consists of a web-application that provides a data dashboard to review and report on the information collected with the inspection forms.

In the future, the system can be expanded for additional MS4 permit requirements (e.g., SCM inspections, catch basin cleaning, facility, and pavement management).

Wildlands looks forward to providing more quality, accessible, and functional online mapping tools for future clients!

#NADO #award #wildlandsengineering #stormwater #waterquality #ArcGIS #mappingtools #landofsky #ashevillenc #GIS

A Day in The Life of a Wildlands Environmental Scientist

At Wildlands Engineering we work together to facilitate the success of each project, something that would not be possible without the help of our environmental scientists! Their valuable work and dedication to collecting field data are integral to every phase during the life of a project.

Each challenge in the field and in the office is a rewarding opportunity to bolster knowledge and promote the best practices that will help us conserve and restore the environment. No matter the task or assignment, our main goal is to leave the project we restore in better shape than we found it, making a positive and sustainable impact.

Learn more by hearing from our scientist on what it’s like for a ‘day in the life of an environmental scientist!’

From the Stewardship Corner: Words from one of our Land Stewards

In 2020, Wildlands introduced our Land Stewardship Team as an avenue to taking a more holistic and tailored approach to the management of each mitigation site and its unique needs. Wildlands identified the importance of vegetation establishment to long term success in stream and wetland restoration projects, and as a result implemented the stewardship team. These individuals are tasked with facilitating the achievement of site monitoring goals housed within the company. The addition of the stewardship team allows for immediate, dynamic, and ecologically strategic responses to issues relating to the biological integrity of mitigation projects overseen by Wildlands, as well as increased assurance in the quality of stewardship tasks such as invasive species removal, the establishment of diverse native vegetation, and the rehabilitation of soil health.

Our sites have flourished under the watchful eye of our land stewards. They bring their distinct sets of expertise to identify and improve our projects through nature-based solutions. Through the newness of the stream and wetland mitigation industry, it lends itself inherently to innovation. Criteria of stream restoration projects, namely the stability of restored streambanks, converge in the success of the vegetation within riparian buffer zones.

Let’s catch up with one of our land stewards, Andrew Lemon, as he describes his experiences working for Wildlands out of our Raleigh office.


“My first experience with the mitigation industry was as a Land Stewardship Intern at Wildlands over the Summer of 2022. Being able to experience firsthand the knowledge and care with which our stewards handled their sites was inspiring and influential to me personally and professionally. I was incredibly grateful to be offered a full-time position on the stewardship team as a Stewardship Technician upon my graduation from UNC-Wilmington and the opportunity to return to the fold to hone my own skills in restoration focused land management.


Andrew Lemon in the field holding a tiny snake!

I found myself especially excited by what the novelty of the Wildlands stewardship model entails, a new form of land management entirely. Stewards are generally able to navigate sites by memory, through thick vegetation and swampy terrain. Stewards are adept in recognizing patterns, and subsequently adapting management strategies to be harmonious with the natural cycles of our sites. Seeding native grasses and forbs in accordance with the rain and timing treatments of invasive species with growth cycles are just a few common examples of ecologically driven land management activities. Sites are not seen as one-size-fits-all generators of stream and wetland credits, but are approached holistically, with a sense of reverence that these crucial ecosystems deserve.

While environmental stewardship existed long before the stream and wetland industry, long before streams and wetlands were impaired to the point of requiring restorative measures, the personal touch provided to sites under the care of Wildlands sets a standard previously unforeseen in the private sector restoration industry.”


PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Southside Community Stormwater Improvement Project

Since 2019, Wildlands Engineering (Wildlands) has been working on several green infrastructure project initiatives with our long-time partner RiverLink, a watershed group with the mission of promoting the environmental and economic vitality of the French Broad River and its watershed. Wildlands recently completed the Central Asheville Watershed Restoration Plan for Riverlink, which consisted of project identification and developing an interactive watershed plan. Within the watershed plan, projects were identified in multiple subwatersheds, including Nasty Branch which runs through the Southside Community. In the 1960s and 1970s, this and other nearby black communities were negatively impacted by urban renewal projects, which left a profound impact on the social structure and well-being of the community.

Over 1300 businesses and homes were lost from the Southside Community between the 1960’s and 1970’s.


Among the many projects identified, one stood out for its apparent need of creating a more functional space, safe environment, and resilient infrastructure at the Erskine Apartments – located along Livingston Street in the heart of Southside. The watershed plan identified proposed activities to target a drainage issue in the cul de sac on Water Street where water was seeping onto the road resulting in a bad odor and unsafe conditions, particularly in winter.  After further evaluation of the site and its contributing drainage and infrastructure, a multifaceted project was proposed to address multiple community needs as well as provide stormwater management to improve water quality in Nasty Branch.

In addition to the drainage issue, concrete stormwater swales and corrugated metal pipe systems from the original apartment construction in 1969 were failing, a powerline behind residences was very low to the ground creating an unsafe feeling environment, and areas of dense invasive vegetation created unusable spaces and consumed native trees and vegetation. Discussions with community leaders, meetings in the park, and door to door efforts lead to a list of community needs and desires that were assembled into a cohesive improvement plan to address as many considerations as possible.

Wildlands helped prepare technical information for grants to fund the project. Multiple entities contributed funding to the project including the apartment owner, the Asheville Housing Authority. The project used stormwater control measures called regenerative stormwater conveyance (RSC) channels to replace pipe and concrete ditches. These incorporate sand-based media to provide additional water quality treatment. Rain gardens and a stormwater wetland were implemented to capture parking lot and rooftop runoff; a french drain routed subsurface flow into the stormwater system to resolve road seepage; a power line relocation addressed the low overhead line; and trails and sitting areas for contemplation and to honor lost loved ones were incorporated into the project. The paths and a bridge over the RSC channel connect kids and community members to the nearby park, community center, school bus stops, and other nearby destinations. For more information, visit RiverLink’s Project Page »


Wildlands Partners with the Letters to a Pre-Scientist Program

This year, Wildlands has supported and sponsored a classroom for the Letters to a Pre-Scientist program. Through our One + One Initiative, this opportunity has given many of our scientists at Wildlands the ability to connect with students from all over the country and inspire them to explore a future in the environmental and water resources industry.

The mission of the Letters to a Pre-Scientist program strives to maintain a culture where everyone who participates feels supported to be their full selves; at Wildlands Engineering, we aim to portray the same values by ensuring an inclusive environment for every student we write compelling letters to, as well as clients and industry partners we interact with at project sites or industry events.

We look forward to continuously encouraging the younger generation of scientists to follow their dreams in defining their career pathway and becoming leaders in the environmental industry as we know it today!

Hear from some of our scientists on their inspiring experiences with Letters to a Pre-Scientist (LPS):

“I am very excited to be participating in the LPS program. The time commitment is minimal (only four letters). I am most excited about the opportunity to spark a kid’s interest in science and the outdoors. I think that it is really important to get kids excited and interested about science and the outdoors while they are young, because it correlates to involvement in the sciences as an adult. Having the opportunity to share about my experience can hopefully create some excitement in my pen pal. I think it is important for kids to have someone who encourages them and their curiosity – this program achieves those goals. Part of growing up is learning about different jobs, fields, and avenues to reach those jobs. These letters can provide a small exposure to my pen pal so that they can reach for their career goals.”  Jeff Turner, Environmental Scientist in Charlotte, NC


“I love that Wildlands consistently participates in a plethora of varied outreach efforts and Letters to Pre-Scientists may be one of my favorites! It’s a heartwarming experience getting to connect with students, impart a passion for science, and act as a resource for them. This program facilitates many students’ first ever interaction with a STEM professional and is a great medium for students to see their own potential through the professionals they’re connected with. I also really value and appreciate the challenge of breaking down typical industry language into a format that’s easier for the student to digest – it pushes me to grasp and look at concepts in a different light! Most importantly, I believe in the goals and values of LPS, ‘being committed to supporting all aspects of diversity in STEM and ensuring an inclusive environment that is welcoming to everyone.”  Madison LaSala, Environmental Scientist in Raleigh, NC


“I’m stoked to have received and responded to my pen pal’s first letter! It certainly brightened my day to see a hand-written letter on my keyboard when I came into work one day. I also had fun creating a photograph timeline showing how I got to my current position at Wildlands – along with a few fun facts about me.”  Julie Bernstorf, PE, Water Resources Engineer in Asheville, NC





“I love the LPS program! From being matched with a pre-scientist to reading what their interests are and answering their questions. As an adolescent, I would’ve loved a program like LPS to connect with a science professional, so I put myself in their shoes and give it my all. It’s rewarding being a part of the planting crew – planting seeds for life!”  Emily Israel, Stewardship Coordinator in Charlotte, NC







Join us at the 2023 National Stream Restoration Conference in Baltimore, MD | August 21-23

Wildlands is thrilled to be a sponsor at this year’s National Stream Restoration Conference. We will be at booth #A34, so come by and say hello! We will also have numerous team members giving presentations on a variety of topics spanning from the benefits of design-build projects, macroinvertebrates’ impact on biological monitoring, and a feature on our work with Anne Arundel County, MD.





Please see below for our presentation schedule:

Tuesday, August 22nd
E Session | Kent
8:30 AM ETCase Study: Marylea Farm Stream Restoration Site Biological Monitoring
PRESENTERS:  Mike Fowler, PE, Senior Project Manager and Carolyn Lanza, Environmental Scientist  
Moderator:  Bob Siegfried, RES

A Session | Fells Point
11:30 AM ETThe Value of the Design-Build Experience
PRESENTERS:  Ty Williams, EI, Environmental Designer and Doug Smith, Finance & Resource Manager with Wildlands Construction, LLC
Moderator:  Greg Golden

C Session | Watertable
11:50 AM ETAnne Arundel County’s Approach to Meeting MS4 and TMDL Requirements through Turnkey Restoration Projects
PRESENTERS:  Abigail Vieira, PE, Water Resources Engineer and Erik Michelsen, Deputy Director with Anne Arundel County’s Department of Public Works
Moderator:  Stephen Pawlak, JMT

From the Stewardship Corner: Adaptations of Aquatic Plants

What’s so special about aquatic plants? They provide vertical structure and habitat for animals in water systems, as well as trap sediments, slow the velocity of water, and even absorb pollutants such as heavy metals and nutrient run-off. Aquatic plants, aka hydrophytes, have several unique adaptations to help them survive in the water. Photos 1: Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) at Falling Creek Mitigation Site, North Carolina; Photo 2: Soft-stemmed bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani) at Marylea Farm Mitigation Site, Maryland


Emergent plants are rooted in water and partially grow above the water surface. Broadleaf watermilfoil has two shapes of leaves. The above-water leaves are triangular, bright green, and produce axillary flowers. The filamentous form of the submerged leaves are excellent at catching fine sediment and they bear a reproductive structure called a turion. Photo 3 & 4: Broadleaf watermilfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum) at Dudley Mill Pond Mitigation Site, North Carolina


Submerged plants are rooted into aquatic substrate or without a root system. They regrow from buds below the water surface. Spongy tissues provide structure and buoyancy while in the water. A submerged aquatic plant quickly becomes limp outside of water. Quick tip: if you’re trying to identify an aquatic plant, it helps to keep it in a dish of water.


Floating-leaved plants are rooted into aquatic substrate with leaves that float on the water surface. The American white water-lily (Nymphea odorata) leaves are covered by a waxy cuticle that repels water. This prevents the leaves from rotting. Photo 5 & 6: American Water-Lily (Nymphaea odorata) at Dudley Mill Pond Mitigation Site, North Carolina


Free-floating plants are found suspended on water surface with no roots attached. Swollen bladderwort (Utricularia inflata) has a whorl of leaf structures called “rafts” that look and float like pool noodles! Photo 7: Swollen bladderwort at Dudley Mill Pond Mitigation Site, North Carolina


  • Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) at Falling Creek Mitigation Site

Conserving Eastern Hellbender habitat at Wildlands Engineering’s Falcon Mitigation Site

North Carolina is home to one of the largest aquatic salamanders found in the United States, the Eastern Hellbender (Cryptobranchus a. alleganiensis). The Eastern Hellbender can grow to be more than two feet long and is found in perennial streams with fast flowing, cool, and clear water. Adult hellbenders spend most of their life under large, flat rocks that shelter them, whereas larval and juvenile hellbenders hide beneath large rocks and under small stones in gravel beds. Fine sediments from eroding stream beds and banks can harm these key habitats for this unique species. The Eastern Hellbender is currently listed as a US Federal Species of Concern (FSC) and a North Carolina Special Concern (NCSC).


Wildlands is currently working alongside state and federal agencies to provide ecological and water quality improvements at our Falcon Mitigation Site located in the western part of North Carolina. The streams within this mitigation site are part of a natural area rated as ‘high’ functioning by the NC Natural Heritage Program due to the richness of aquatic species it supports. Both Wildlands and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) noted the potential benefit of performing a restoration project within this important stream community.  To specifically benefit Eastern Hellbenders, Wildlands coordinated with NCWRC and conducted Eastern Hellbender surveys, as well as eDNA sampling during the design phase at the Site. Snorkeling within project streams was done to investigate existing habitats and try to identify any existing populations. Results from the study did not identify individual species within the project limits; however, a positive environmental DNA (eDNA) sample was recorded at the downstream end of the project which indicates that there is at least one animal within less than 1 km upstream from this point. Wildlands discussed areas that should be protected with NCWRC and is implementing species aimed habitats using large flat boulders to provide additional nesting areas within the channel post construction.


Through our restoration efforts, Wildlands will restore and enhance over 5,700 linear feet of stream by excluding livestock, creating stable stream banks, restoring a forest in agriculturally maintained buffer areas, and restoring riparian habitat. The site will also be protected in perpetuity by a 15.5-acre conservation easement. These actions will reduce fecal, nutrient, and sediment inputs to project streams, and ultimately to Cartoogechaye Creek and the Little Tennessee River, as well as reconnect instream and terrestrial habitats on the Site. Habitat and water quality are important factors for hellbender survival rates as they breathe entirely through their skin and cannot tolerate high sedimentation rates or low dissolved oxygen levels. Changes in watershed land use and streamside management have been the primary factor negatively impacting this species. During construction Wildlands and the contractor will be especially careful and observant for animals when working in the channel and relocate “out of harm’s way” per NCWRC guidance.


Wildlands is excited to be a part of this conservation effort for the Eastern Hellbender!


  • NCWRC snorkeling for Eastern Hellbenders while Wildlands employees collected GPS location data at the existing Falcon Mitigation Site.



Contacts at NCWRC: Lori Williams and Andrea Leslie


Wildlands Engineering continues to protect the dwarf-flowered heartleaf

In April of this year, Wildlands’ Double Rock Mitigation Project wrapped up construction, completed by Wildlands Construction. Located in the Catawba River basin, a unique aspect of this project is the presence of a rare species of plant called the dwarf-flowered heartleaf (Hexastylis naniflora)!


The dwarf-flowered heartleaf species is only found in several counties across North and South Carolina and is currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. However, in 2021, the USFWS proposed to de-list it. When the dwarf-flowered heartleaf was initially put on the endangered species list in 1989, there were only 24 known populations, distributed across North and South Carolina. Since then, through the combined efforts of various non-profits, land conservation organizations, and private landowners, the dwarf-flowered heartleaf has made a tremendous comeback. There are currently over 120 known populations, of which several of these sites are thriving with more than 1,000 plants, many are found on protected conservation lands.


Wildlands has had the opportunity to partner with many organizations, as well as private landowners, to create, implement, and preserve these stable habitats for endangered species such as the dwarf-flowered heartleaf. The organizations that have played a key role in conserving this species are: Foothills Land Conservancy, Catawba Lands Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, National Park Service, Broad River Greenway, North Carolina Department of Transportation, Duke Energy, private landowners, State of North Carolina.


In 2023, Wildlands scientist identified and delineated the dwarf-flowered heartleaf population alongside USFWS within our project area. Wildlands worked closely with Wildlands Construction team to avoid any impacts to the population and conserve 3 acres of the dwarf-flowered heartleaf population and habitat that will be protected in perpetuity within the conservation easement. Wildlands is thrilled to be a part of the dwarf-flowered heartleaf’s conservation effort through the implementation of the Double Rock Mitigation Project.