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Journal Article

Creating Wetlands: Primary Succession, Water Quality Changes, and Self-Design over 15 Years

William J. Mitsch, Li Zhang, Kay C. Stefanik, Amanda M. Nahlik, Christopher J. Anderson, Blanca Bernal, Maria Hernandez and Keunyea Song
Vol. 62, No. 3 (March 2012), pp. 237-250
DOI: 10.1525/bio.2012.62.3.5
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Page Count: 14
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Creating Wetlands: Primary Succession, Water Quality Changes, and Self-Design over 15 Years
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The succession of vegetation, soil development, water quality changes, and carbon and nitrogen dynamics are summarized in this article for a pair of 1-hectare flow-through-created riverine wetlands for their first 15 years. Wetland plant richness increased from 13 originally planted species to 116 species overall after 15 years, with most of the increase occurring in the first 5 years. The planted wetland had a higher plant community diversity index for 15 years, whereas the unplanted wetland was more productive. Wetland soils turned hydric within a few years; soil organic carbon doubled in 10 years and almost tripled in 15 years. Nutrient removal was similar in the two wetlands in most years, with a trend of decreased removal over 15 years for phosphorus. Denitrification accounted for a small percentage of the nitrogen reduction in the wetlands. The wetlands were effective carbon sinks with retention rates of 1800–2700 kilograms of carbon per hectare per year, higher than in comparable reference wetlands and more commonly studied boreal peatlands. Methane emission rates are low enough to create little concern that the wetlands are net sources of climate change radiative forcing. Planting appears to have influenced carbon accumulation, methane emissions, and macrophyte community diversity.

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