The Florida Institute of Phosphate Research was interested in developing success criteria for evaluating wetland reclamation efforts implemented by the Florida mining industry. In tandem with the University of Florida, Water & Air embarked upon two years of intensive biological, sediment quality, and water quality monitoring in a total of 22 natural and reclaimed herbaceous (non-forested) wetlands in central Florida. Results were used to establish success criteria, evaluate reclaimed wetland design and management, and evaluate reclaimed wetland structure and function over time by comparison with natural wetlands.
- Developed sampling design and conducted wetland site selection
- Collected water and sediment samples for chemical and grain size analysis
- Collected and analyzed fish, benthic meiofauna and over 1,300 benthic macroinvertebrate samples
- Estimated cover of floating and rooted herbaceous vegetation
- Performed manipulative field enclosure experiments designed to determine the influence of vertebrate predators (fish) on benthic invertebrate communities
- Completed statistical analyses of all data for comparison of wetlands
- Recommended wetland design characteristics for optimizing establishment of conditions resembling natural wetlands
- Developed biotic indices based on aquatic invertebrates for assessing water quality and ecosystem structure and function
This work gave the Florida Institute of Phosphate Research and the lead regulatory agency, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, a strong basis for establishing wetland reclamation success criteria and for recommending wetland design specifications (shoreline length and shape, steepness of slope, mean water depth, mulching techniques) and management techniques (plantings, exotic and weedy species management). Additionally, results of this work demonstrated that adequately designed reclaimed herbaceous (non-forested) wetlands support biological communities and chemical function similar to natural wetlands within five years of construction.