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Prairie Wolf Slough Wetlands Demonstration Project: A Case Study Illustrating the Need for Incorporating Soil and Water Quality Assessment in Wetland Restoration Planning, Design and Monitoring


Address correspondence to J. A. Montgomery, email


In northeastern Illinois, restored wetlands are used to improve water quality in streams degraded by agriculture and urban development. Using freshwater wetlands to reduce nitrogen loading to lakes and rivers is well documented; however, there are fewer studies addressing their use to remove phosphorous. In 1998, a systematic water quality monitoring project was begun at Prairie Wolf Slough Wetland Demonstration Project, a restored palustrine emergent marsh wetland located on an abandoned farm field north of Chicago. The wetland drains 98 ha of mixed land uses into the Chicago River. Our objectives were to assess spatial and temporal variations in total suspended solids, soluble reactive and total phosphorous concentrations, and mass loadings and compute a mass balance and retention efficiency for these constituents. Water sampling was conducted from 1998 to 2003. In 2004, soil samples were collected from the marsh and an adjacent abandoned farm site and analyzed for soil test (Bray) phosphorus. The marsh effectively traps suspended solids but acts as a source of soluble reactive and total phosphorous to the river both during the growing and nongrowing seasons. Net export of phosphorous from the wetland was likely due to mobilization of orthophosphate as a result of anoxic conditions produced during inundation events. Often little consideration is given to the link between soil and water quality when locating restoration sites. Our study adds to a growing body of literature that clearly demonstrates the need for both soil and water quality assessments in wetland restoration planning, design, and monitoring.