Mitsch 1995; Wilson and Mitsch 1996; Brown and Bedford 1997) and wet meadows (Brown and Veneman 1998). Mixed results have been reported in the restoration of wet prairies and sedge meadows (Galatowitsch and van der Valk 1996; Ashworth 1997). Certain floristic assemblages, such as sedge meadows visited by the committee in the Chicago area, require extensive planting and intensive management in order to maintain the desired species composition. Thus, the technical ability to attain a prescribed species assemblage may not be affordable or practical in the long term.

Shrub swamps and forested wetlands are more difficult to create or restore because of the time needed to establish mature woody plants (Niswander and Mitsch 1995; Brown and Veneman 1998; King 2000). The committee observed examples of created wetlands where tree saplings had been planted and appeared to be viable, but forest structural characteristics (e.g., stand density, stand height, basal area per tree) were quite different from those of the mature stands they were intended to replace. Planted trees are usually small in diameter, so that basal area per tree is small in comparison to natural forested wetlands. The density (trees per unit area) of planted stands is typically higher than that of natural stands because of either permit specifications or the desire to compensate for mortality. Given sufficient time, planted trees would be expected to attain basal areas comparable to those of trees in natural stands, but densely planted stands would continue to differ from natural stands unless thinned.

Seagrasses and salt marshes are sometimes described as wetlands that are relatively easy to restore or create, based on a long history of mitigation involving eelgrass (Zostera marina) and smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora; Simenstad and Thom 1992; 1996). Each of these natural vegetation types has the following features that are amenable to restoration or creation:

  • One vascular plant species dominates the vegetation; that is, it forms the matrix of the ecosystem.

  • The species in question have been well studied for growth requirements and environmental tolerances.

  • The matrix species is readily collected and propagated and planted because of its particular clonal growth form (ramets are produced from rhizomes that are easily subdivided).

  • These vegetation types grow in relatively wet conditions where environmental variability is buffered by ocean water of relatively constant temperature, salinity, and pH.

  • These species are natural colonizers of bare substrates (“early succession” species).

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