Planting richness affects the recovery of vegetation and soil processes in constructed wetlands following disturbance

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Abstract

The resilience of constructed wetland ecosystems to severe disturbance, such as a mass herbivory eat-out or soil disturbance, remains poorly understood. In this study, we use a controlled mesocosm experiment to examine how original planting diversity affects the ability of constructed freshwater wetlands to recover structurally and functionally after a disturbance (i.e., aboveground harvesting and soil coring). We assessed if the planting richness of macrophyte species influences recovery of constructed wetlands one year after a disturbance. Mesocosms were planted in richness groups with various combinations of either 1, 2, 3, or 4 species (RG 1–4) to create a gradient of richness. Structural wetland traits measured include morphological regrowth of macrophytes, soil bulk density, soil moisture, soil %C, and soil %N. Functional wetland traits measured include above ground biomass production, soil potential denitrification, and soil potential microbial respiration. Total mesocosm cover increased along the gradient of plant richness (43.5% in RG 1 to 84.5% in RG 4) in the growing season after the disturbance, although not all planted individuals recovered. This was largely attributed to the dominance of the obligate annual species. The morphology of each species was affected negatively by the disturbance, producing shorter, and fewer stems than in the years prior to the disturbance, suggesting that the communities had not fully recovered one year after the disturbance. Soil characteristics were almost uniform across the planting richness gradient, but for a few exceptions (%C, C:N, and non-growing season soil moisture were higher slightly in RG 2). Denitrification potential (DEA) increased with increasing planting richness and was influenced by the abundance and quality of soil C. Increased open space in unplanted mesocosms and mesocosms with lower species richness increased labile C, leading to higher C mineralization rates.

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Means, M. M., Ahn, C., & Noe, G. B. (2017). Planting richness affects the recovery of vegetation and soil processes in constructed wetlands following disturbance. Science of the Total Environment, 579, 1366–1378. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.11.134

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