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Keywords:

  • wetlands;
  • restoration;
  • drains;
  • invertebrate communities;
  • ecological integrity

Drainage is a major disturbance affecting wetlands, as drains lower water tables and convert lentic habitats to lotic ones. Consequently, invertebrate communities in drained wetlands are likely to differ from those in unimpacted wetlands. This study investigated the effect of hydrological restoration on invertebrate communities in small drains in a New Zealand fen. Invertebrates were collected over 4 summers from 10 drains within the wetland, one of which was blocked as part of a restoration program. The sampling protocol thus represented a Before-After Control-Impact experiment. Invertebrate community composition varied over the 4 years, but variability was greatest in the manipulated drain before and after it was blocked. Relative abundance of the amphipod Paraleptamphopus decreased after blockage, whereas those of the midges Chironomus zelandicus and Tanypodinae increased. Relative abundances of these taxa in control sites were unchanged. Hydraulic restoration thus had a demonstrable impact on the invertebrate communities. The invertebrate community of the blocked drain was compared to that of natural wetlands in undisturbed catchments. Similarity was very low prior to drain blockage, but increased following drain blockage. Invertebrate communities in the restored drain were more similar to those of low pH wetlands than high pH wetlands. Given the goal of restoring the communities to those similar to natural conditions, this was a beneficial result. These results, coupled with studies that showed a decline in the cover of alien pasture grasses around the blocked drain, suggest that drain blockage represents a cost-effective way of restoring wetland plant and aquatic invertebrate communities, especially where connectivity allows for the natural recruitment of these organisms into restored areas.