Quantifying Soil Hydrology to Explain the Development of Vegetation at an Ex-Arable Wetland Restoration Site
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- Stroh, P.A., Mountford, J.O., Araya, Y.N. et al. Wetlands (2013) 33: 311. doi:10.1007/s13157-013-0385-1
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Wetland restoration frequently sets well-defined vegetation targets, but where restoration occurs on highly degraded land such targets are not practical and setting looser targets may be more appropriate. Where this more ‘open-ended’ approach to restoration is adopted, surveillance methods that can track developing wetland habitats need to be established. Water regime and soil structure are known to influence the distribution and composition of developing wetland vegetation, and may be quantified using Sum Exceedence Values (SEV), calculated using the position of the water table and knowledge of soil stress thresholds. Use of SEV to explain patterns in naturally colonizing vegetation on restored, ex-arable land was tested at Wicken Fen (UK). Analysis of values from ten locations showed that soil structure was highly heterogeneous. Five locations had shallow aeration stress thresholds and so had the potential to support diverse wetland assemblages. Deep aeration stress thresholds at other locations precluded the establishment of a diverse wetland flora, but identified areas where species-poor wetland assemblages may develop. SEV was found to be a useful tool for the surveillance of sites where restoration targets are not specified in detail at the outset and may help predict likely habitat outcomes at sites using an open-ended restoration approach.