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COMPENSATING FOR WETLAND LOSSES UNDER THE CLEAN WATER ACT
America. Several biological and landscape considerations are critical to the sustainability of such species, and a variety of factors must be considered in attempting compensatory mitigation for loss of animal-support functions. Created wetlands are generally not designed to meet the needs of animals found in the impacted wetland; hence, animal species ' richness is often low in mitigation sites.
Amphibians are perhaps the best-studied group of organisms from the standpoint of wetland dependency both in terms of association with a particular wetland and the landscape pattern of wetland connectivity. The importance of amphibians as a major component of wetland biodiversity, the significance and necessity of peripheral terrestrial habitat to their existence, and the requirement for wetland interconnectivity in a landscape have been documented for a variety of species and regions in North America (Berven and Gill 1983; Berven and Grudzien 1990; Berven 1990; Pechmann et al. 1991; Dodd 1992, 1993, 1995; Gibbs 1993; Semlitsch et al. 1996; Snodgrass et al. 1999; Madison 1997; Semlitsch 1998, 2000; Semlitsch and Bodie 1998; Lamoureux and Madison 1999). Biological dynamics of animal populations are discussed in Chapter 3.
The committee concludes that for compensatory mitigation of a wetland to be effective for all affected fauna, the biological dynamics must be evaluated in terms of the populations present and the ecological requirements of the species, which include metapopulation aspects that are affected by the relationship of the wetland to other wetlands in the local system.
After more than 2 decades of compensatory mitigation, there are now thousands of hectares of restored and created wetlands in the United States. Yet only a few studies have analyzed how various ecosystem components have changed over time, and even fewer describe ecological performance over more than 5 years. Knowing how rapidly an ecosystem matures, or fails to mature, is important for learning how to improve future projects.
A 3- to 5-year monitoring period is a common permit requirement. Five years may be enough time for herbaceous plant cover to reach a peak (see Figure 2–1), but trees obviously take longer than herbaceous plants to reach peak biomass. Biomass, however, may not be equivalent between the restored or created wetland and the natural reference ecosystems. For example, Brown and Veneman (1998) analyzed 68 paired mitigation sites in Massachusetts and, using criteria for establishment for equivalency, reported that plant communities were not equivalent to reference systems after 13 years.