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Long-Term Assessment of Alternative Strategies for the Restoration of Floodplain Forest in the Presence of an Invasive Grass, Phalaris arundinacea

  • Jeffrey W. MatthewsEmail author
  • Susan McIntyre
  • Ariane L. Peralta
  • Cassandra Rodgers
Wetlands Restoration


In 1998, a 6.1-ha wetland restoration project along the Rock River, IL, USA was designed to test five afforestation methods on former agricultural land, including planting bareroot trees, balled-and-burlapped trees, seedlings, acorns, or allowing natural regeneration. Fifteen years later, we assessed vegetation at the site to determine the effectiveness of alternative strategies and compare treatments to an adjacent floodplain forest. We also compared the cost of treatments to determine whether long-term restoration outcomes justified initial costs. After 15 years, lower cost treatments (acorn plantings and passive restoration) were dominated by dense reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea) with sparse trees, whereas higher cost treatments (bareroot and balled-and-burlapped tree plantings) had developed closed tree canopies, and tended to have greater plant species richness, tree basal area, and density of stems >7.5-cm diameter. For every additional $10,000 per ha spent on restoration, predicted richness increased by 1 species per 250-m2 plot, predicted P. arundinacea biomass decreased by 61 g m−2, and predicted tree basal area increased by 3 m2 ha−1. Although some studies have indicated that passive regeneration alone is effective for afforestation, restoration of floodplains in the presence of P. arundinacea will require a more intensive approach.


Invasive plants Passive restoration Reforestation Spontaneous succession Wetland mitigation Wetland restoration 



Illinois Department of Transportation provided funding for this project. George Geatz and Kyle Van den Bosch assisted with fieldwork. Dennis Skultety assisted with GPS/GIS.


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© Society of Wetland Scientists 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Illinois Natural History SurveyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaignUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyEast Carolina UniversityGreenvilleUSA
  4. 4.District 2 Environmental Unit, Illinois Department of TransportationDixonUSA

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