, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 699-712

First online:

Development of Soil Properties and Nitrogen Cycling in Created Wetlands

  • Kristin L. WolfAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason UniversityU.S. Geological Survey Email author 
  • , Changwoo AhnAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University
  • , Gregory B. NoeAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey

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Mitigation wetlands are expected to compensate for the loss of structure and function of natural wetlands within 5–10 years of creation; however, the age-based trajectory of development in wetlands is unclear. This study investigates the development of coupled structural (soil properties) and functional (nitrogen cycling) attributes of created non-tidal freshwater wetlands of varying ages and natural reference wetlands to determine if created wetlands attain the water quality ecosystem service of nitrogen (N) cycling over time. Soil condition component and its constituents, gravimetric soil moisture, total organic carbon, and total N, generally increased and bulk density decreased with age of the created wetland. Nitrogen flux rates demonstrated age-related patterns, with younger created wetlands having lower rates of ammonification, nitrification, nitrogen mineralization, and denitrification potential than older created wetlands and natural reference wetlands. Results show a clear age-related trajectory in coupled soil condition and N cycle development, which is essential for water quality improvement. These findings can be used to enhance N processing in created wetlands and inform the regulatory evaluation of mitigation wetlands by identifying structural indicators of N processing performance.


Age-trajectory Denitrification potential Freshwater created wetlands Nitrogen cycling Nitrogen mineralization Organic carbon