Comparison of function of created wetlands of two age classes in central Pennsylvania

Environ Manage. 2009 Apr;43(4):597-608. doi: 10.1007/s00267-008-9180-9. Epub 2008 Jul 16.


Hydrogeomorphic (HGM) functional assessment models were used to assess whether function in created wetlands of two ages (1 year old and >12 years old) was equivalent to that of natural (reference) mainstem floodplain wetlands. Reference wetlands scored higher than both created age classes for providing energy dissipation and short-term surface water storage. Reference wetlands scored higher in maintaining native plant community and structure than 1-year-old sites, and 12-year-old wetlands scored higher than reference sites for providing vertebrate habitat structure. Analysis of individual model variables showed that reference wetlands had greater vegetative biomass and higher soil organic matter content than both created wetland age classes. Created wetlands were farther from natural wetlands and had smaller mean forest patch sizes within a 1-km-radius circle around the site than did the reference sites, indicating less hydrologic connectivity. Created wetlands also had less microtopographic variation than reference wetlands. The 1-year-old created sites were placed in landscape settings with greater land use diversity and road density than reference sites. The 12-year-old sites had a higher gradient and a higher percentage of their surrounding area in urban land use. These results show that the created wetlands were significantly structurally different (if not functionally so) from reference wetlands even after 12 years. The most profound differences were in hydrology and the characteristics of the surrounding landscape. More attention needs to be focused on placing created wetlands in appropriate settings to encourage proper hydrodynamics, eliminate habitat fragmentation, and minimize the effects of stressors to the site.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ecosystem
  • Geography
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Pennsylvania
  • United States
  • Wetlands*