In this study, we compared a 20-yr chronosequence of created tidal wetland sites in Tampa Bay, Florida (USA), to natural reference mangrove wetlands. Across the chronosequence, our sites represent the succession from salt marsh to mangrove forest communities. Our results identify important soil and plant structural differences between the created and natural reference wetland sites; however, they also depict a positive developmental trajectory for the created wetland sites that reflects tightly coupled plant-soil development. Collectively, our findings characterize the rate and trajectory of above- and below-ground changes associated with ecosystem development in created mangrove wetlands; this is valuable information for environmental managers planning to sustain existing mangrove wetlands or mitigate for mangrove wetland losses.
Wetland restoration and creation efforts are increasingly proposed as mechanisms to compensate for wetland losses. However, ecosystem development and functional equivalence in restored and created wetlands are poorly understood. There is a need for research that evaluates the development of ecosystem structure and function in restored and created wetlands. There is also a need for research that provides information that can be used to evaluate and improve the functional equivalency of created and restored wetlands.
Our sites represent the succession from salt marsh to mangrove forest communities across the chronosequence. From the succession analysis we quantified various above and belowground ecosystem properties with an emphasis on plant-soil interactions and soil carbon and nitrogen accumulation.