There has been regulatory concern over the appropriate length of time to monitor wetland sites restored or created as compensation for impacts permitted by a U.S. Clean Water Act permit. However there is very little longitudinal research on wetland compensation sites, and conclusions on compensation site development are usually drawn from the analysis of a chronosequence of sites of different ages. This approach has limitations, given the extent of changes in wetland compensation practices and performance standards over the past few decades. In this study we conducted vegetation surveys of 22 wetland compensation sites in a rapidly developing part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area in 1997 and 2010. We present data on changes over time in floristic richness and cover at the site level and at the level of wetland community type within each site. Our findings do not support the assumption that wetland compensation sites progress on a trajectory toward increasing diversity, floristic quality, or native cover over time. We find that, when data from all sites are considered together, emergent communities have suffered significant declines in both floristic quality and native plant cover, while wet meadow communities have gained species richness but not species diversity. There is some evidence that site richness and cover characteristics are converging toward a regional mean over time, as the species composition of wet meadows became significantly more similar over the survey period, and all community types have significant increases in woody cover. Our study suggests the importance of selecting appropriate compensation sites that avoid foreseeable hydrologic stresses, and does not support the position that 5 years of monitoring can assure the ongoing biotic integrity of wetland compensation sites.
- Clean Water Act
- Vegetation change