A case study in large-scale wetland restoration at Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Upper Michigan, U.S.A

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A large wetland drainage project was initiated in 1912 near the town of Seney, Michigan, U.S.A. This project included the construction of a series of ditches through a large peatland to drain the land for agricultural use. The largest of these ditches was the 35 km long Walsh Ditch. Much of the drained wetland affected by the Walsh Ditch is now managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Between 2002-2003, nine large earthen ditch plugs were installed along a 4.5 km section of the ditch in an attempt to restore the hydrological and ecological integrity of the approximately 1400 ha of wetlands and streams. This study explores the effects that the ditch plugs had on the hydrology and vegetation structure of the adjacent landscape 8y later. Plot level measurements (707 m2 plots) of hydrology and vegetation, combined with an analysis of land cover change using aerial imagery, indicated that the ditch plugs had been successful in altering the hydrology and vegetation over portions of the area. Mortality of upland tree species more typical of xeric conditions and colonization by typical wetland species indicated that these sites should continue to develop into wetland ecosystems. Land cover change analysis showed an increase in wetland area of 152 ha. The areas of change were concentrated near the plugged ditch and near a large anthropogenic pool. © 2013, American Midland Naturalist.

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American Midland Naturalist