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Monday, April 9 • 3:30pm - 3:45pm
SYMPOSIA-08: Linking Long-term Wetland Restoration Outcomes to Landscape Conditions via Standardized Vegetation Monitoring

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AUTHORS: Jeffrey W. Matthews*, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ABSTRACT: Wetland restoration outcomes have been difficult to predict due to the erratic and context-dependent nature of restoration trajectories. As a consequence, restored wetlands often fail to meet expectations. This is especially problematic when wetlands are restored as legally mandated compensation to offset permitted impacts to natural wetlands. We have conducted long-term monitoring of several compensation wetlands in Illinois to evaluate compliance with required performance standards and to compare plant communities between natural and compensation wetlands. Standardized restoration monitoring and comparative analyses have allowed us to generalize common restoration trajectories and link those trajectories to features of the landscape. The results of restoration are seemingly idiosyncratic if we follow a single site for a few years, but not at all surprising if we consider the broader context within which restoration is taking place. Our results suggest that plant communities in compensation sites tend to converge upon those of natural wetlands within the surrounding landscape. For example, in Illinois, restoration of wetlands is plagued by reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea) invasion. This undesirable trajectory, common to many restorations, mirrors broader trends in Illinois and across the temperate United States: based on large-scale, standardized monitoring of wetlands, we have observed a nationwide pattern of biotic homogenization as reed canarygrass invades naturally occurring wetlands. Despite restoration efforts, condition or quality of restorations tracks and is constrained by the condition of the landscape. Therefore, even assuming successful on-site restoration and short-term compliance, a degraded landscape eventually may drag a wetland compensation project into a state of non-compliance. To predict restoration outcomes, restoration practitioners must first identify the undesirable states that are most likely in a given landscape and recognize the landscape-level factors that channelize succession toward these undesirable states. Large-scale, long-term, standardized approaches to site monitoring are essential for this effort.

Monday April 9, 2018 3:30pm - 3:45pm CDT
Hancock Parlor