Vegetation and environmental conditions in recently restored wetlands in the prairie pothole region of the USA

Susan M. Galatowitsch, Arnold G. Van Der Valk

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63 Scopus citations

Abstract

How closely the vegetation of restored wetlands resembles that of comparable natural wetlands is a function of the probability of propagules of wetland species reaching reflooded wetlands and how similar environmental conditions in the restored wetland are those in the natural wetlands. Three years after reflooding, we examined the vegetation composition, water level fluctuations, soil organic carbon content, and soil bulk density as well as surface water pH, alkalinity, conductivity, and calcium and magnesium concentrations of 10 restored and 10 natural wetlands. In the restored wetlands, more species of submersed aquatics colonized than were found in natural wetlands, and they rapidly spread to form extensive beds that were larger than those found in natural wetlands. Emergent and wet meadow species in restored wetlands, however, were found in only sparse stands as were a variety of annuals. The vegetation of natural wetlands was predominantly large stands of emergent species. Fluctuations in water storage volume and basin surface area were similar for both restored and natural wetlands. The surface water in restored wetlands had higher pH and lower alkalinity, conductivity, and calcium and magnesium concentrations than that in natural wetlands. Soils of restored wetlands have a lower organic carbon content and higher bulk density than do those of natural wetlands. Our results suggest that for submersed aquatics, dispersal of propagules to restored wetlands is rapid and environmental conditions in restored wetlands are very suitable for their establishment. For other guilds of wetland species, e.g., sedges and other wet meadow species, dispersal to restored wetlands is likely much slower and may pose a serious problem for the re-establishment of these species in restored wetlands. Even if dispersal is not limiting, low surface organic carbon and high bulk density may prevent the establishment of these species in restored wetlands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-99
Number of pages11
JournalVegetatio
Volume126
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1996

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