Development of an Assessment Framework for Restored Forested Wetlands
Development of an assessment framework and associated indicators that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a wetland restoration is critical to demonstrating the sustainability of restored sites. An interdisciplinary approach was developed to assess how succession is proceeding on a restored bottomland site in South Carolina relative to an undisturbed reference and a naturally agrading site. Comparisons of populations and processes across successional gradients and treatments allows the effect of disturbance and restoration activities to be evaluated. Studies involving vegetation communities, organic matter and nutrient dynamics, seedling establishment and competition, and avian, herpetofauna, fish and macroinvertebrate communities have been implemented. Seedling establishment and competition studies suggest nonchemical and minimal mechanical site preparation techniques, tree shelters and root pruning should be considered as alternatives depending on restoration objectives and site conditions. The restored site contains many of the functional capabilities of a wetland with respect to fauna, however certain species tend to dominate populations in Pen Branch when compared to late successional wetlands. Fish populations show higher population densities in the restored site as compared to the reference site. A conceptual framework for integrating biotic and abiotic processes into a restoration response model will be used to synthesize ecosystem response and to identify indicators for restoration assessments.