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Abstract

Tidal wetland mesocosms at Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve failed to elucidate effects of hydrologic treatments (excluded, impounded, and fully tidal systems) for most parameters measuring Salicornia virginica (pickleweed). Although soil salinity increased where tidal flushing was excluded for 10 months (salinities rose ∼20 to 50%), pickleweed cover and algal chlorophyll did not differ among treatments. Effects were seen only in pickleweed growth rates (∼30% decrease where tides were excluded) and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) measurements. We failed to show any differences between impounded and fully tidal conditions, because the mesocosms had coarse sediments, and impounded water drained easily via subsurface flow. However, the problems that we encountered with the mesocosms led to the following advice for future wetland restoration projects: (1) Mesocosms are useful for testing restoration techniques before an actual restoration project takes place. (2) Mesocosms should be used to test factors that may lead to more successful restoration in the future, including planting techniques, substrate conditions, and hydrology. (3) Mesocosms should be used to develop new assessment methods for monitoring wetland ecosystems. Because of the ability to control some environmental parameters while maintaining seminatural conditions, mesocosms offer great potential for the future evaluation of experimental restoration techniques.