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Response of aquatic vegetation communities and other wetland cover types to floodplain restoration at Emiquon Preserve


More than half of the natural wetlands in the Illinois River valley (IRV) have been lost through conversion of floodplain wetlands and lakes to drainage and levee districts for agricultural production. During 2007–2013, we monitored the response of wetland vegetation communities to restoration at Emiquon Preserve, a former floodplain that was drained and farmed for more than 80 years. Spatial coverage of wetland vegetation and other cover types rapidly expanded from 252 ha in 2007 to 1,944 ha in 2013 (mean 1,512 ± 239 ha) with little supplemental planting or hydrological management. Restored vegetation emulated aquatic plant communities that were largely eliminated from the IRV, most importantly floating-leaved and submersed aquatic vegetation. Mean annual wetland cover included aquatic bed (44%), open water (20%), persistent emergent vegetation (10%), hemi-marsh (10%), and nonpersistent emergent vegetation (9%). Average moist-soil seed and tuber density was similar to managed wetlands in the IRV (mean 724 ± 224 kg/ha). A viable option for restoration of diverse aquatic macrophyte communities within degraded wetlands of large river systems includes passive restoration of hydrology and vegetation behind levees while maintaining infrastructure to facilitate drawdowns when necessary or to mimic historical conditions.

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Funding for this project was provided by The Nature Conservancy’s Illinois River Project Office, contract number C07-032. We would like to thank D. Blodgett, J. Beverlin, T. Hobson, M. Lemke, S. McClure, J. Herkert, and J. Walk of The Nature Conservancy for their input and guidance in our research activities. We also appreciate our colleagues at the Illinois Natural History Survey’s Illinois River Biological Station for use of field and laboratory equipment. Finally, we thank G. Fretueg and K. Hardy for their assistance in the field and laboratory. All required permissions and permits were acquired to conduct this research in accordance with guidelines established by the University of Illinois and state and federal policies.

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Correspondence to Christopher S. Hine.

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Guest editors: Michael J. Lemke, A. Maria Lemke & Jeffery W. Walk / Large-Scale Floodplain Restoration in the Illinois River valley

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Hine, C.S., Hagy, H.M., Horath, M.M. et al. Response of aquatic vegetation communities and other wetland cover types to floodplain restoration at Emiquon Preserve. Hydrobiologia 804, 59–71 (2017).

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  • Emiquon Preserve
  • Wetland restoration
  • Aquatic vegetation
  • Floodplain
  • Illinois River