Wetlands on Phosphate Mined Lands

Evaluation of Constructed Wetlands on Phosphate Mined Lands

In 1994 a coalition of researchers from the private sector, NGOs and the universities led by Kevin Erwin and Ronnie Best (UF Center for Wetlands) undertook a monumental two year study of wetlands created on reclaimed phosphate mined lands (Erwin, et al., 1997). The primary task of this ambitious project was to asses and analyze the available data base and where necessary to supplement the available data base with limited additional sampling and ecosystem modeling.

Research goals were directed at determining current technical and operational success of created wetlands to develop as persistent, functioning and integrated ecosystems. This was accomplished by an evaluation of design criteria and the wetland structure and function that had developed on existing sites. The project team had identified six specific research goals:

  1. Provide a data base from existing studies to guide operational and policy changes needed to improve design, construction, monitoring and assessment of the created wetlands and to determine the adequacy of the existing data base, providing recommendations to ensure the utility of future research and monitoring efforts.
  2. Determine the extent to which existing created wetlands are persistent, functioning ecosystems.
  3. Determine whether created wetlands are properly located in the reclaimed landscapes.
  4. Determine ecosystem functions and values provided by the constructed wetlands, to identify appropriate indicators of functions and values and to develop quantitative methods of measuring those indicators.
  5. Determine how success criteria should be applied in evaluating the attainment of goals and of development trends for created wetland projects.
  6. Identify future research needs of industry and regulatory agencies.

The study’s findings can be summarized in four main areas of concern:

  1. The overall adequacy of the data was very poor, limited or lacking in standardization to do quantitative evaluations of created wetlands success.
  2. Many of the created wetlands were apparently persistent features on the landscape providing similar functions but at very different capacities.
  3. The created wetlands were disconnected and dominated by agriculture with numerous fragmented habitats and watersheds.
  4. Reclamation goals should establish a landscape plan for an entire watershed; types and sizes of habitats, hydropatterns, topography, types and levels of functions to be provided.

Appropriate, measurable criteria should be used to determine the degree of success and goal attainment.

The research team suggested over a dozen needed research topics and described in detail the successes and failures of past restoration efforts and indicated where industry and regulatory agencies needed change.

Citation. Erwin, K. L., S. J. Doherty, M. T. Brown, and G. R. Best. 1997. Evaluation of constructed wetlands on phosphate mined lands in Florida. Volume I, II, III. Florida Institute of Phosphate Research, Bartow, FL, USA. Final Report FIPR Project 92–03–103