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Does Facilitation of Faunal Recruitment Benefit Ecosystem Restoration? An Experimental Study of Invertebrate Assemblages in Wetland Mesocosms


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    Present address: Natural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota Duluth, 5013 Miller Trunk Highway, Duluth, MN 55804.

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    Present address: Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI 53706.

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    Present address: 854 Inglehart Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104.

Corresponding author.


We used wetland mesocosms (1) to experimentally assess whether inoculating a restored wetland site with vegetation/sediment plugs from a natural wetland would alter the development of invertebrate communities relative to unaided controls and (2) to determine if stocking of a poor invertebrate colonizer could further modify community development beyond that due to simple inoculation. After filling mesocosms with soil from a drained and cultivated former wetland and restoring comparable hydrology, mesocosms were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: control (a reference for unaided community development), inoculated (received three vegetation/sediment cores from a natural wetland), and stocked + inoculated (received three cores and were stocked with a poorly dispersing invertebrate group—gastropods). All mesocosms were placed 100 m from a natural wetland and allowed to colonize for 82 days. Facilitation of invertebrate colonization led to communities in inoculated and stocked + inoculated treatments that contrasted strongly with those in the unaided control treatment. Control mesocosms had the highest taxa richness but the lowest diversity due to high densities and dominance of Tanytarsini (Diptera: Chironomidae). Community structure in inoculated and stocked + inoculated mesocosms was more similar to that of a nearby natural wetland, with abundance more evenly distributed among taxa, leading to diversity that was higher than in the control treatment. Inoculated and stocked + inoculated communities were dominated by non-aerial invertebrates, whereas control mesocosms were dominated by aerial invertebrates. These results suggest that facilitation of invertebrate recruitment does indeed alter invertebrate community development and that facilitation may lead to a more natural community structure in less time under conditions simulating wetland restoration.