Ecosystem Development After Wetland Restoration and Creation

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Wetland restoration and creation efforts are increasingly proposed as means to compensate for wetland losses. To address the need for evaluating the development of ecosystem structure and function in restored and created wetlands, USGS compared created tidal wetlands sites to natural mangrove wetlands in Tampa Bay, Florida. 

What is the rate of trajectory of ecosystem development after wetland restoration and creation?

What is the rate of trajectory of ecosystem development after wetland restoration and creation?

The Science Issue and Relevance: Wetland restoration and creation efforts are increasingly proposed as mechanisms to compensate for wetland losses. However, ecosystem development and functional equivalence in restored and created wetlands are poorly understood. There is a need for research that evaluates the development of ecosystem structure and function in restored and created wetlands. There is also a need for research that provides information that can be used to evaluate and improve the functional equivalency of created and restored wetlands. In this study, we compared a 20-yr chronosequence of created tidal wetland sites in Tampa Bay, Florida (USA), to natural reference mangrove wetlands. Across the chronosequence, our sites represent the succession from salt marsh to mangrove forest communities. Our results identify important soil and plant structural differences between the created and natural reference wetland sites; however, they also depict a positive developmental trajectory for the created wetland sites that reflects tightly coupled plant-soil development. Collectively, our findings characterize the rate and trajectory of above- and below-ground changes associated with ecosystem development in created mangrove wetlands; this is valuable information for environmental managers planning to sustain existing mangrove wetlands or mitigate for mangrove wetland losses.

Soil change: organic matter

Soil change: organic matter

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: Our sites represent the succession from salt marsh to mangrove forest communities across the chronosequence. From the succession analysis we quantify various above and belowground ecosystem properties with an emphasis on plant-soil interactions and soil carbon and nitrogen accumulation.

Future Steps: Additional restoration chronosequences and metrics will be developed as we return to these same sites for remeasurement. These additional data will help improve our understanding of post-creation ecosystem development and soil carbon accumulation. Another potential future step would be to develop an even longer-term (i.e., 30-40 year) assemblage of sites throughout Florida.

Publications:

  • Osland, M. J., A. C. Spivak, J. A. Nestlerode, J. M. Lessmann, A. E. Almario, P. T. Heitmuller, M. J. Russell, K. W. Krauss, F. Alvarez, D. D. Dantin, J. E. Harvey, A. S. From, N. Cormier, and C. L. Stagg. 2012. Ecosystem development after mangrove wetland creation: plant-soil change across a 20-year chronosequence. Ecosystems 15:848-866.
  • Osland, M. J., E. González, and C. J. Richardson. 2011. Restoring diversity after cattail expansion: disturbance, resilience, and seasonality in a tropical dry wetland. Ecological Applications 21:715-728.
Vegetation change: adult tree diameter

Vegetation change: adult tree diameter