Recent research suggests that created wetlands do not look, or function, like the natural systems they are intended to replace. Proper planning, construction, and the introduction of appropriate biotic material should initiate natural processes which continue indefinitely in a successful wetland creation project, with minimal human input. To determine if differences existed between created and natural wetlands, we compared soil matrix chroma, organic matter content, rock fragment content, bulk density, particle size distribution, vegetation species richness, total plant cover, and average wetland indicator status in created (n = 12) and natural (n = 14) wetlands in Pennsylvania (USA). Created wetlands ranged in age from two to 18 years. Soils in created wetlands had less organic matter content, greater bulk densities, higher matrix chroma, and more rock fragments than reference wetlands. Soils in reference wetlands had clay loam textures with high silt content, while sandy clay loam textures predominated in the created sites. Vegetation species richness and total cover were both greater in natural reference wetlands. Vegetation in created wetlands included a greater proportion of upland species than found in the reference wetlands. There were significant differences in soils and vegetation characteristics between younger and older created wet-lands, though we could not say older created sites were trending towards the reference wetland condition. Updated site selection practices, more careful consideration of monitoring period lengths, and, especially, a stronger effort to recreate wetland types native to the region should result in increased similarity between created and natural wetlands.
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