Restoration of wetland ecosystems has typically focused on hydrology, soil, and vegetation; taking an, “If you build it, they will come” strategy for the recovery of wetland fauna. We tested this assumption by quantifying mammal richness and abundance in recently restored and nonmitigated reference wetland habitats to determine if mammalian community composition varies with wetland condition. Our study consisted of live trapping and infrared photography at three restored and three reference (“natural”) wetland sites in Northeastern Ohio. After 3000 potential trap nights and 120 potential camera nights, we documented the presence of nine species and nearly 300 unique individuals in reference and restored wetlands. We found no significant differences in mammalian richness, abundance, or species composition between reference and restored wetlands; however, mammal abundance in terms of individual captures was 62% higher in restored wetland patches (n = 194) than in reference wetlands (n = 104). Restored wetlands – if managed correctly – can harbor mammalian communities as rich as those found in nonmitigated wetland habitats. Our results support the “Field of Dreams” hypothesis which suggests, among other things, that if the necessary physical conditions are present then desired fauna will subsequently colonize the patch. For small to midsized mammals in our study area, this appears to be the case.
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