Lower water level to restore/create freshwater marshes from other land uses

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages

  • Two studies evaluated the effects, on vegetation, of lowering the water level to restore/create freshwater marshes from other land uses or habitat types. One study was in the USA and one was in the Netherlands.

VEGETATION COMMUNITY

  • Overall extent (1 study): One replicated, before-and-after study of a freshwater wetland in the USA reported that following a drawdown of water levels, emergent vegetation coverage increased in areas that were previously open water.

VEGETATION ABUNDANCE

  • Overall abundance (1 study): One before-and-after study at the edge of a freshwater lake in the Netherlands reported that following a drawdown of the lake water level, vegetation cover developed in areas that were previously open water. Cover varied between years and elevations.

VEGETATION STRUCTURE

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated, before-and-after study in 1949–1957 in a freshwater wetland in Minnesota, USA (Harris & Marshall 1963) reported that following drawdown of water levels, emergent wetland vegetation colonized the site. Over five years of drawdown, stands of tall emergent plants like softstem bulrush Scirpus validus, cattails Typha spp. and sedges Carex spp. developed on approximately 5,000 acres of 12,000 acres that were previously open water. Elsewhere, exposed mudflats were colonized by species such as marsh fleabane Senecio congestus and red goosefoot Chenopodium rubrum (area not quantified). The study suggested several related factors that affected the type of vegetation that developed, e.g. month of drawdown, soil type (mineral or peat), speed of drying, seed availability, and presence of algal mats. Herbaceous wetland communities present in the first year of drawdown were largely replaced by upland weeds, then woody species, over the following four years. Methods: At some point between 1949 and 1957, water levels were lowered in seven separate wetland pools to stimulate growth of emergent and moist-soil wetland vegetation. Two pools supported islands of emergent vegetation before drawdown. Observations were made after 1–5 years of drawdown in each pool (further details not reported).

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A before-and-after study in 1987–1992 of a freshwater lake in the Netherlands (ter Heerdt & Drost 1994) reported that following drawdown of the water level, emergent wetland vegetation colonized. Cover of vegetation overall and of individual plant species depended on elevation and length of drawdown. For example, the highest, driest zone (exposed from March/April 1987) developed 63% total vegetation cover after one growing season. It was dominated by broadleaf cattail Typha latifolia (53% of total). After four years, total cover was 103% and the dominant species was great willowherb Epilobium hirsutum (63% of total). The lowest, wettest zone (exposed from April/July 1988) developed 16% total cover after one growing season. It was dominated by swamp ragwort Senecio congestus (87% of total). After four years, total cover was 36% and the dominant species was toad rush Juncus bufonius (28% of total). Zones at intermediate elevation developed 87–109% total cover after four years, dominated by common reed Phragmites australis (51–94% of total). Methods: The water level of Groteplas Lake was lowered from 1987, gradually exposing formerly flooded areas. The highest shoreline zones (with some islands of emergent vegetation before drawdown) were exposed in 1987. The lowest zones (no emergent vegetation before drawdown) were exposed in 1988. Cover of each plant species and vegetation overall were recorded along transects in exposed areas after 1–4 growing seasons (September/October 1987–1992).

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Taylor N.G., Grillas P., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2021) Marsh and Swamp Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions to Conserve Marsh and Swamp Vegetation. Conservation Evidence Series Synopses. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

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Marsh and Swamp Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Marsh and Swamp Conservation
Marsh and Swamp Conservation

Marsh and Swamp Conservation - Published 2021

Marsh and Swamp Synopsis

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