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Vegetation Monitoring of Created Dune Swale Wetlands, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

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Abstract

A monitoring program was established on San Antonio Terrace at Vandenberg Air Force Base to compare vegetation development at two created wetland sites and six nearby natural wetlands. The reference wetlands were chosen to represent a range of habitats in dune swale wetlands on the Terrace. Vegetation in the reference wetland plant communities varies from low-growing herbaceous marsh species with open canopies to closed canopies dominated by shrub or tree species. Transects and plots for long-term vegetation monitoring were established in all the wetlands, stratified by plant communities in the reference wetlands and by geomorphic location in the newly created wetlands. Quantitative vegetation and environmental data were collected at all the sites; measures included species distributions, species cover, and topographical elevations. Over the first three years of monitoring, variations in groundwater depth at different geomorphic locations in the created wetlands resulted in a variety of physical conditions for plant growth. In the first year, more than 100 plant species were observed, the majority being natives. During the next two years, species richness at the created wetland sites remained relatively stable and was higher than at the reference sites. Statistical comparisons of vegetation parameters by analysis of variance and hierarchical clustering exhibited patterns of increasing similarity between the created and reference wetlands. Long-term monitoring will be continued to track the progress of vegetation at the created sites, and to assess their development relative to the reference wetlands.

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