The habitat being colonized will be more invasible if there are microsites available for seedling colonization. Small gaps in the canopy or minor soil disturbance might be all that is needed to allow seeds to establish (Hobbs and Huenneke 1992; Lindig-Cisneros and Zedler 2001). Thus, human- or animal-caused disturbances can lead to establishment events. The combination of canopy gaps and nutrient inflows can virtually guarantee the establishment and spread of invasive species. Wetland restoration and creation sites are very susceptible to species invasions when (1) they are devoid of vegetation, (2) plant canopies have multiple gaps, and (3) their water supplies are eutrophic. All three attributes characterize many mitigation sites.

The ability of a site to support biodiversity is not independent of its ability to improve water quality. It is critical that the relationship between these two functions be understood if mitigation goals are to be set that are ecologically conflicting, such as maintaining high plant biodiversity and improving eutrophic water quality. Mitigation sites that receive nutrient-rich surface-water runoff are well situated to perform water-quality-improvement functions, but biodiversity-support functions may suffer in the process. Wetlands that are designed to maximize the water-treatment function typically become monotypes of invasive species within a few years, even if they are initially planted to multiple species (Kadlec and Knight 1996).

Habitat Support for Fauna

None of the compensatory mitigation projects visited by the committee included design and evaluation criteria for animals. Animals are almost never manipulated or introduced into wetlands, in contrast to transplants of higher plants. Even when wetland assessments involve animals, the primary consideration is waterfowl and other birds or identifiable endangered/threatened species. Evaluations do not consider the constraint that most wetland animals are incapable of overland migration if terrestrial corridors are blocked by development, highway systems, or other situations not conducive to overland movement. Many wetland animal species are also dependent on the terrestrial habitat surrounding a prescribed wetland. The importance of considering migratory pathways and upland buffers in the design of a compensatory mitigation plan is discussed in greater detail in Chapter 3.

Soil Functions

Soil performs a number of important functions in a wetland that are usually overlooked in wetland restoration:

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