Wisconsin has lost approximately 2 million hectares of wetland since statehood (1848). Through the combined efforts of state and federal agencies and private groups focused primarily on wetland restoration for waterfowl habitat management or compensatory mitigation, a fairly substantial gain in wetland area has been achieved. Much of the wetland restoration effort in Wisconsin has occurred on formerly agricultural lands. However, due to the nature of the past disturbance and possible residual effects not corrected by simply returning surface waters to these lands, there is some question regarding the resultant wetland quality or biological integrity. In an effort aimed at developing tools to measure wetland gains in terms of quality or ecological integrity, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) initiated a study of biological communities on restored wetlands in Wisconsin. In this paper, we report on the community of microcrustaceans and arthropods that can be collected with a plankton net in open water in wetlands. We examined zooplankton community structure in restored wetlands in terms of richness, taxonomic representation, and Daphnia sexual reproduction and related these metrics to attributes on wetlands representing least-disturbed conditions and agriculturally impacted wetlands. We sampled 56 palustrine wetlands distributed across Wisconsin. These wetland sites were categorized as agricultural, least-impacted, and restored (recently withdrawn from agricultural usage). The wetlands were reasonably homogeneous in many ways, so that taxon richness was not correlated with basin origin, presence of adjacent roads, presence or absence of fish, water chemistry, or the size of the open water. We identified a total of 40 taxa. Taxon richness was significantly lower in agricultural sites (average of 3.88 taxa per site) compared to that of least-impacted sites (7.29 taxa) and restored sites (7.21 taxa). Taxon richness of restored sites was significantly correlated with time since restoration. The data indicate that taxon richness changes from a value typical of agricultural sites to the average richness of least-impacted sites in about 6.4 years. The total taxon list for 8 agricultural sites (14 taxa) was significantly smaller than the average value for randomly chosen sets of 8 least-impacted sites (20.4 taxa). Agricultural and least-impacted sites tended to have the same common taxa. Many taxa of chydorid cladocerans and cyclopoid copepods that were rare in least-impacted sites did not occur in the agricultural sites, nor did fairy shrimp occur in agricultural sites. Daphnia populations only produced males in least-impacted and restored sites. Further research is needed to identify the mechanism(s) responsible for the reduced species richness and lack of sexual reproduction in agricultural wetland sites. Likely factors include eutrophication, turbidity, or chemical contamination. We conclude that restoration of wetland watersheds works. Withdrawal of the watershed from agricultural usage is followed by an increase in taxon richness, and the sites resembled least-impacted sites in about 6–7 years.
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Vol. 21 • No. 2