Comparison of created and natural freshwater emergent wetlands in Connecticut (USA)
Five three- to four-year old created palustrine/emergent wetland sites were compared with five nearby natural wetlands of comparable size and type. Hydrologic, soil and vegetation data were compiled over a nearly two-year period (1988-90). Created sites, which were located along major highways, exhibited more open water, greater water depth, and greater fluctuation in water depth than natural wetlands. Typical wetland soils exhibiting mottling and organic accumulation were wanting in created sites as compared with natural sites. Typha latifolia (common cattail) was the characteristic emergent vegetation at created sites, whereas a more diverse mosaic of emergent wetland species was often associated with Typha at the natural sites. Species richness was slightly higher in created (22–45) vs. natural (20–39) wetlands, but the mean difference (33 vs. 30) was not significant. Nearly half (44%) of the 54 wetland taxa found at the various study sites were more frequently recorded at created than natural wetlands. The presence of mycorrhizae in roots of Typha angustifolia (narrow-leaved cattail) and Phragmites australis (common reed) was greater at created than natural wetlands, which may be related to differential nutrient availability. Wildlife use at all sites ranged from occasional to rare, with more sightings of different species in the natural (39) than created (29) wetlands. The presence of P. australis and introduced Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife) may pose a threat to future species richness at the created sites. One created site has permanent flow-through hydrology, and its vegetation and wildlife somewhat mimic a natural wetland; however, the presence of P. australis and its potential spread pose an uncertain future for this site. This study suggests the possibility of creating small palustrine/emergent wetlands having certain functions associated with natural wetlands, such as flood water storage, sediment accretion and wildlife habitat. It is premature to evaluate fully the outcome of these wetland creation efforts. A decade or more is needed, emphasizing the importance of long term monitoring and the need to establish demonstration areas.