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Soil Properties Predict Plant Community Development of Mitigation Wetlands Created in the Virginia Piedmont, USA

Dee, Suzanne M., Ahn, Changwoo
Environmental management 2012 v.49 no.5 pp. 1022-1036
Juncus effusus, Scirpus, aboveground biomass, belowground biomass, bulk density, cluster analysis, community development, piedmont, plant communities, soil organic matter, soil properties, soil quality, soil water, vegetation, wetlands, Virginia
The study investigated vegetative and soil properties in four created mitigation wetlands, ranging in age from three to ten years, all created in the Virginia Piedmont. Vegetation attributes included percent cover, richness (S), diversity (H′), floristic quality assessment index (FQAI), prevalence index (PI), and productivity [i.e., peak above-ground biomass (AGB) and below-ground biomass]. Soil attributes included soil organic matter (SOM), gravimetric soil moisture (GSM), pH, and bulk density (Db) for the top 10 cm. Species dominance (e.g., Juncus effusus, Scirpus cyperinus, Arthraxon hispidus) led to a lack of differences in vegetative attributes between sites. However, site-based differences were found for GSM, pH, and SOM (P < 0.001). Soil attributes were analyzed using Euclidean cluster analysis, resulting in four soil condition (SC) categories where plots were grouped based on common attribute levels (i.e., SC1 > SC2 > SC3 > SC4, trended more to less developed). When vegetation attributes were compared between SC groups, greater SOM, lower Db, more circumneutral pH, and higher GSM, all indicative of maturation, were associated with higher H′ (P < 0.05), FQAI (P < 0.05), and total and volunteer percent cover (P < 0.05), and lower AGB (P < 0.001), PI (P < 0.05), and seeded percent cover (P < 0.05). The outcome of the study shows that site age does not necessarily equate with site development with soil and vegetation developmental rates varying both within and among sites. The inclusion of soil attributes in post-construction monitoring should be required to enhance our understanding and prediction of developmental trajectory of created mitigation wetlands.