• ecological restoration;
  • floating marsh;
  • Panicum hemitomon;
  • multi-species plantings;
  • wetland ecology

Planting multiple species in wetland restoration sites could potentially accelerate ecological succession while enhancing ecological services. Our study of thick-mat floating marsh demonstrated that two species performed better than monocultures for developing a more structurally sound root mat. Although Panicum hemitomon is the typical dominant and focal species of all restoration efforts of this habitat type, we evaluated the effects of additional species, including Sagittaria lancifolia, a ubiquitous floating marsh constituent, and three laterally growing specialists (Alternanthera philoxeroides, Hydrocotyle ranunculoides, and Ludwigia peploides). In a mesocosm experiment, we found greater P. hemitomon biomass in monocultures but greater vegetative cover and total mat biomass with P. hemitomon plus L. peploides, but not greater biomass in the most species-rich treatment or treatment with the greatest initial planting density. We conclude that L. peploides aids restoration of thick-mat floating marsh by increasing mat buoyancy, enhancing lateral growth, and providing greater root mat structural integrity. This type of laterally growing specialist should accelerate coalescence of neighboring constructed and naturally formed mats. Planting species that occupy complementary niches should also minimize competition for key resources.