A comparison of plant communities in mitigation and reference wetlands in the mid-appalachians
- Cite this article as:
- Balcombe, C.K., Anderson, J.T., Fortney, R.H. et al. Wetlands (2005) 25: 130. doi:10.1672/0277-5212(2005)025[0130:ACOPCI]2.0.CO;2
Wetland destruction has plagued the U.S. for decades, but the need to compensate for these losses has only been embraced within the last 20 years. Because so many compensatory mitigation wetlands have been created, there is a need to assess the function of these valuable ecosystems relative to natural wetlands. The goal of this study was to evaluate the functional equivalency of mitigation wetlands in West Virginia in supporting hydrophytic plant communities. A series of nested quadrats was used to compare plant community structure among eleven mitigation and four naturally occurring reference wetlands. For all species combined, mean total percent cover across all sampling quadrats per wetland was similar between mitigation and reference wetlands. Species richness, evenness, and diversity were greater in mitigation than in reference wetlands. Mean weighted averages of plant communities calculated using cover values and wetland indicator status were similar between mitigation and reference wetlands. There were, however, major differences in species composition. Mitigation sites tended to have more pioneer species, non-native dominants, and species with relatively lower conservation quality. Ordination analyses suggested that compositional differences become smaller as mitigation sites age. Both mitigation and natural wetlands met criteria for hydrophytic vegetation according to the 1987 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual. These data suggest that the mitigation wetlands investigated in this study adequately support hydrophytic vegetation and appear to be developing vegetation similar to reference standards.