Midwest Biodiversity Institute
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QHEI Course

Wetland Restoration

Wetland Restoration

An Ecological Performance Based Approach

Wetlands are restored for a number of reasons. Often wetlands are reestablished voluntarily in an effort to reclaim important ecosystem services and floral and faunal biodiversity. Another common reason wetlands are restored is as compensation for wetland losses authorized by dredge and fill permits. Some wetland restorations are exceptional and meet all of the most valued goals for that project, but a large majority of wetland restorations are unsuccessful in replicating the natural wetlands they are constructed to replace.

Studies of compensatory wetland mitigation projects show that at best, 20 percent of restoration attempts compare favorably to good quality natural wetlands and can be considered as successful. Voluntary wetland restorations are also often ineffective in reaching their goals. Far too many wetland restorations result in projects that are primarily ponds having aggressive side slopes, deep water areas, large amounts of open water with little or no submersed or floating bed vegetation, and are not wetlands. However, the most common shortcoming attributable to poor quality restoration is when large disturbances undertaken during construction are paired with little or no maintenance or adaptive management, resulting in impaired wetlands that are highly dominated by invasive plant species such as non-native cattails, reed canary grass and Phragmites.

This course will give attendees the necessary tools to assure they are aware of the appropriate considerations that need to be evaluated and incorporated into planning, constructing, developing and maintaining high quality wetland restoration. The training will involve some classroom but primarily in-field observation and instruction of the important factors of the science. We will be using natural wetland ecological conditions as performance standards to be met, while providing feedback on the health of restorations. Monitoring is a requirement for compensatory mitigation and should also be used to measure the progress and success of wetland restorations undertaken. The training will demonstrate how to design and implement restoration that will mimic reference quality natural wetlands and that are able to meet applicable performance standards within a short period of time.


Three instructors will present the class materials. John Kiertscher, who has developed a large number of the most successful and highest quality wetland restorations in the state of Ohio, will provide his expertise in all steps of the wetland restoration process. Those steps include site selection, planning, construction, seeding and planting, adaptive management, site maturation adjustments and long term management. Scott Sonnenberg, an engineer who has worked closely with John in developing those wetland restorations, will provide his insights on how engineering concepts must be paired with the all important ecological considerations to develop restorations that are natural and high performing. Mick Micacchion, who has reviewed and monitored hundreds of restored and created wetlands, adds the perspective of a researcher who has observed firsthand, quantified, and reported on what does and does not work.

Day One: Classroom Instruction and Wetland Site Visit

Most of the day will be spend in the classroom where the central concepts involved in developing self-managing high quality wetland restorations are covered. These important considerations will be addressed from the perspectives of a restoration ecologist, ecosystems engineer, and a wetland researcher. While having different backgrounds and approaches to wetland restoration, the three instructors are consistent in presenting the same set of key factors involved in developing high performing wetlands. There will be a visit to a restored wetland on the Carlisle Reservation in the afternoon.

Day Two: Field Training

Includes visits to nearby wetland restoration project sites of different hydrogeomorphic types and in different stages of development. Each site will provide opportunities for observation and discussions of the wetland restoration challenges and procedures that were most important in development of the current conditions. Attendees will get up close hands-on experience in recognizing the consistent planning, engineering and ecological restoration approaches that lead to successful wetland restorations. The importance and role of monitoring will also be discussed. We will include an explanation of the protocols to select and set up representative plots to provide reliable feedback on the ecological condition of wetland restorations.


At the end of the second day the instructors will answer any remaining questions and present certificates to each attendee documenting their successful completion of the course. By the end of day two, participants will have obtained the knowledge and skills to be confident in beginning to plan, implement, monitor, review, and evaluate wetland restoration projects on their own.

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