, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 699–712 | Cite as

Development of Soil Properties and Nitrogen Cycling in Created Wetlands

  • Kristin L. WolfEmail author
  • Changwoo Ahn
  • Gregory B. Noe


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 



We thank Nicholas Ostroski, Russel Fielding, and Hannah McFarland for their help with data collection and Elizabeth Jones and the M. Voytek microbiology lab for use of their equipment for this project. We also thank Wetland Solutions and Studies, Inc. and Angler Environmental for use of their wetlands. This study was made possible through funding from USGS Chesapeake Priority Ecosystem Science, USGS-NIWR Grant, Jeffress Memorial Trust Fund, the Society of Wetlands Scientists, USGS Hydrologic Networks and Analysis Program, USGS National Research Program, the Washington Field Biologist Club, and the Cosmos Foundation.

Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristin L. Wolf
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Changwoo Ahn
    • 1
  • Gregory B. Noe
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science and PolicyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological SurveyRestonUSA

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