Created versus natural wetlands: Avian communities in Virginia salt marshes

David W. Desrochers, Jason C. Keagy, Daniel A. Cristol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Permits to destroy wetlands often require the creation of the same type of wetland elsewhere. An assumption underlying this practice is that such created wetlands will replace the ecological functions lost when the developed wetland was destroyed. Part of this ecological function is providing habitat for wildlife, including, in coastal areas, a suite of bird species tied to salt marshes for some portion of their life cycle. We tested the hypothesis that created wetlands provide habitat for the avian communities lost when wetlands are destroyed by comparing the breeding and wintering birds on 11 small created salt marshes with those on 11 natural reference salt marshes that were carefully matched for size and surrounding land cover. We found that, during the breeding season, created salt marshes had lower avian abundance and richness than reference salt marshes. In particular, wetland-dependent species were poorly represented on created wetlands. On the other hand, bird use outside of the breeding season and use by an important salt marsh obligate species, the clapper rail (Rallus longirostris), did not differ. Created wetlands that we surveyed failed to completely replicate the bird and plant communities that we observed on nearby natural reference salt marshes, raising the question of whether current mitigation policies that encourage-wetland creation should continue without further investigation into the success of such wetlands at recreating wildlife habitat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-43
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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