Restoration of vegetation communities of created depressional marshes in Ohio and Colorado (USA): The importance of initial effort for mitigation success

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Many studies have attempted to assess the ability of created wetlands to replace the ecological structure and functions of natural wetlands over short time periods (<5 years). Few studies have repeatedly monitored vegetative community development of created depressional wetlands over longer time frames or assessed the return on the level of initial restoration efforts. Here, the vegetation communities of 17 created freshwater marshes in two different geographic regions of the U.S., Ohio and Colorado, ranging from 5 to 19 years old, were monitored over multiple years and compared to natural reference sites. Findings suggest that created marshes in Ohio achieved floristic equivalency with natural reference sites for measures of plant species richness, number of native plant species, number of hydrophytes, and percent plant cover within a decade. Yet, created marshes in Ohio contained double the amount of non-native plant species observed in natural reference sites. In Colorado, created marshes were less successful, failing to achieve floristic equivalency for plant species richness, number of native plant species, and number and percent hydrophytes given more than a decade of restoration. Soil chemistry data suggest that although created marshes achieve certain hydric soil characteristics, they were significantly lower in organic matter, cation exchange capacity, and extractable phosphorus than natural wetlands. Equivalency for soil chemistry will require longer time periods (>14 years). Data suggest that created marshes that seem to be approaching floristic equivalency in early years following construction may level off or even dramatically decline over longer time periods (10–20 years) for certain floristic indicators. Restoration trajectories for Ohio created marshes with strong initial restoration efforts predict floristic equivalency in a median of 14 years compared to 24 years for sites with weak initial efforts. Created marshes with strong initial restoration efforts displayed significantly greater plant species richness, number of native plant species, and number of hydrophytes than sites with low initial efforts, indicating the importance of planting, soil transport and/or contouring in establishing a wetland's restoration trajectory.


Ecosystem Restoration



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