Application of the EPA wetland research program approach to a floodplain wetland restoration assessment
Forested wetland restoration assessment is difficult because of the timeframe necessary for the development of a forest ecosystem. The development of a forested wetland ecosystem includes the recovery of hydrology, soils, vegetation, and faunal communities. To assess forested wetland restoration projects, measures need to be developed that are sensitive to early changes in community development and are predictive of future conditions. In this study we apply the EPA's Wetland Research Program's (WRP) approach to assess the recovery of two thermally altered riparian wetland systems in South Carolina. In one of the altered wetland systems, approximately 75% of the wetland was planted with bottomland tree seedlings in an effort to hasten recovery. Individual studies addressing hydrology, soils, vegetation and faunal communities indicate variable recovery responses Our recovery trajectories lndicate that hydrology may take 20-30 years to recover, soil carbon upwards of 60 years and 20-30 years for forest floor processes. Herbaceous vegetation and stream macrophytes appear to take 20-30 years to recover, however, trees will take considerably longer. Stream fauna appear to recover in about 20-30 years while bird populations are on 40-60 year recovery trajectory. Based on the current data, it appears that both wetland systems are on a path toward recovery and that site preparation and planting of seedlings has not accelerated the recovery process.
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