Early development of wetland plant and invertebrate communities: effects and implications of restoration
Berg, Matthew D.
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Loss of wetland habitats across the nation is staggering and continues, especially in urbanizing areas. Thus, wetland restoration has become a priority. However, questions remain regarding system function and biotic communities. We studied a constructed floodplain wetland complex near Dallas, Texas. We sought to improve understanding of wetland ecosystem development under the influence of different approaches to wetland restoration in an urbanizing landscape. In the wetland complex, 10 constructed sloughs, approximately 70m by 15m, were designated for this study. Our experiment monitored the establishment of aquatic plant and invertebrate communities under different experimental conditions. In 5 sloughs, 5 native perennial hydrophyte species were transplanted in blocks in each slough, with the remaining 5 sloughs unplanted. Portions of each slough were caged to determine the effects of protective caging. Using 1m2 caged and neighboring uncaged areas as quadrats, we sampled vegetation and the invertebrate community over two years to determine the effects of restoration treatmentsSlough planting did not result in statistically different levels of plant cover. However, invertebrate abundance was greater in planted sloughs, and plant composition was different, comprised more of perennial species in planted sloughs than in unplanted sloughs. Caging did not have an effect on plant or invertebrate communities. However, changes due to time resulted in significant increases in plant cover and invertebrate abundance and shifts in community composition. Four of 5 transplanted species were emergent growth forms. Emergent cover and the remaining species, Potamogeton nodosus, a floating-leafed plant, accounted for invertebrate community variation. Transplanted emergent species did not fare well, though other emergent species did colonize the site, along with widespread coverage by submerged Najas guadalupensis. Potamogeton spread rapidly, colonizing unplanted sloughs, and this will likely affect community development across the site. Plant and invertebrate richness values were low, likely due to hydrological extremes and the short period of time since construction. Water level fluctuations resulted in plant communities dominated by obligate wetland plants, though drought stress took a toll on survival of plants and invertebrates in late summer. Community development and system function were dependent mostly upon time and hydrology. on the communities.