Reference conditions for restoration of heterogeneous Mediterranean wetland are best defined by multiple, hydrologically diverse sites

Alberto Vélez-Martín (Lead Author), Anthony J. Davy, Carlos J. Luque, Eloy M. Castellanos

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In a mediterranean climate, the vegetation of embanked salt marshes can vary considerably in time and space to obscure the definition of reference condition for restoration purposes. The aim of our study was to find a basis for defining reference vegetation for the reinstatement of a wetland hydrological regime on abandoned agricultural land. We investigated five reference sites surrounding a 2,668 ha restoration site in the Doñana National Park (southwest Spain). Environmental conditions were monitored on a sampling grid for seven years: surface elevation and hydroperiod were mapped (using LIDAR -Light Detection and Ranging- and satellite imagery, respectively) and rainfall, soil salinity and soil pH were recorded. The reference sites collectively encompassed the range of elevation and environmental conditions at the restoration site, although none individually was representative. The vegetation at the reference sites was sampled annually at fixed grid points. Hierarchical cluster analyses identified assemblages of perennial and annual species that were differently distributed among the reference sites. BIO-ENV analysis showed that the distribution of perennial assemblages was determined by elevation, annual hydroperiod, and salinity. More labile annual assemblages were loosely associated with particular perennial ones. Species composition fluctuated over the seven years, in concert with rainfall and hydroperiod, but showed no directional change. Understanding the hydro-chemical drivers of spatio-temporal variation in vegetation across multiple sites has established a rationale for defining reference conditions for large, heterogeneous wetland restoration sites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-155
Number of pages11
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number1
Early online date22 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • Elevation
  • Hydroperiod
  • Long-term monitoring
  • Mediterranean climate
  • Multiple reference sites
  • Non-tidal salt marshes

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