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Abstract

Seed bank experiments are described to assess the species richness potential of coal slurry ponds reclaimed as wetlands (ranging from 6 to more than 40 years old). Experimental treatments test the drawdown and flooded conditions characteristic of the vegetation dynamics of emergent wetlands in the Upper Mississippi Valley. More seedlings, primarily annuals, emerged from exposed wet sediments (freely drained) than under continuous flooded sediments in cold ponds (339 versus 136 seedlings m−2, respectively) and in natural ponds (163 versus 47, respectively). More seeds were produced by plants established in freely drained conditions than under flooded conditions from sediments in the coal ponds (26546 versus 1842 seeds m−2, respectively) and the natural ponds (28430 versus 4526, respectively). Similarly, more biomass was also produced by these plants in freely drained than under flooded conditions in coal ponds (118 versus 47 g m−2, respectively) and natural ponds (118 versus 52, respectively). Fertilization (NPK) did not affect germination for the most part, but it did affect seed set and biomass production, especially for C4 annuals such as Echinochloa crusgalli and Panicum dichotomiflorum. I propose that lime (calcium carbonate) and fertilizer be applied during the first few scheduled drawdowns for these coal slurry ponds reclaimed as wetlands to increase the number of species and to allow their more rapid development as self-sustaining systems.