Wetland development in a previously mined landscape of East Texas, USA
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- Hart, T.M. & Davis, S.E. Wetlands Ecol Manage (2011) 19: 317. doi:10.1007/s11273-011-9218-2
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We studied wetland development in a chronosequence of created wetlands in a reclaimed landscape in east Texas seasonally for 1 year. The purpose of the study was to identify features (i.e., indicators) that best reflected changes in wetland ecosystem state through time and could serve as indicators of “maturity” for bond-release. Features considered included surface water nutrients, soil nutrients, soil redox potential, vegetative biomass and diversity, and benthic invertebrate biomass and diversity. Our sampling focused on nine wetlands representing three different-age classes (n = 3 for each) as a surrogate for time. All wetland sites were created with the same homogenized mine spoil and had similar hydrology and climate. Age-specific changes in all parameters were observed, except for surface water nutrients. The oldest wetlands (i.e., “mature”) exhibited highest soil concentrations of N, C, K, P, and Ca. Soil redox potential was significantly lower in the mature wetlands, in addition to within-wetland (lowest in deepest sampling zones) and intra-annual variability (i.e., lowest during the summer). Mature created wetlands supported the highest vegetative biomass and species richness and highest densities of invertebrates; however, taxa richness was similar across all age groups. Of all parameters we measured, vegetation metrics were among the simplest and most cost-effective measures used to track the early development of mitigated wetlands. This study provides the basis from which to track the development of these reclaimed ecosystems in a more rigorous and easily replicated manner. With further validation, select use of these parameter sets in east Texas and other similar landscapes could aid both in determining compliance for regulatory purposes as well as tracking success of ecological mitigation.