The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the restoration of wetlands impacted by a series of drainage ditches and pools located in an extensive undeveloped peatland in the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Michigan. This study examined the nature and extent of degradation to the Marsh Creek wetlands caused by alteration of natural hydrology by a water-storage pool (C-3 Pool) that intersects the Marsh Creek channel. We tested the hypothesis that a reduction in moderate-intensity disturbance associated with natural water-level fluctuations below the C-3 dike contributed to lower species richness, reduced floristic quality and a larger tree and shrub component than vegetation upstream from the pool. Wetland plant communities were sampled quantitatively and analyzed for species richness, floristic quality and physiognomy. Aerial photographs, GIS databases and GPS data contributed to the characterization and analysis of the Marsh Creek wetlands. Results showed that there was lower species richness in vegetated areas downstream from the pool, but not the anticipated growth in shrubs. Wetland vegetation upstream and downstream from the pool had similar floristic quality, except for a greater number of weedy taxa above the pool. Seepage through the pool dike and localized ground-water discharge created conditions very similar to those observed around beaver dams in Marsh Creek. In essence, the dike containing the C-3 Pool affected hydrology and wetland plant communities in a manner similar to an enormous beaver dam, except that it did not allow seasonal flooding episodes to occur. Management actions to release water from the pool into the original Marsh Creek channel at certain times and in certain amounts that mimic the natural flow regime would be expected to promote greater plant species richness and minimize the negative impacts of the dike.
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Vol. 150 • No. 2