US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in WETLANDS, Vol. 28, No. 3, September 2008, pp. 563–577.


The failure of managed wetlands to provide a broad suite of ecosystem services (e.g., carbon storage, wildlife habitat, ground-water recharge, storm-water retention) valuable to society is primarily the result of a lack of consideration of ecosystem processes that maintain productive wetland ecosystems or physical and social forces that restrict a manager’s ability to apply actions that allow those processes to occur. Therefore, we outline a course of action that considers restoration of ecosystem processes in those systems where off-site land use or physical alterations restrict local management. Upon considering a wetland system, or examining a particular management regime, there are several factors that will allow successful restoration of wetland services. An initial step is examination of the political/social factors that have structured the current ecological condition and whether those realities can be addressed. Most successful restorations of wetland ecosystem services involve cooperation among multiple agencies, acquisition of funds from non-traditional sources, seeking of scientific advice on ecosystem processes, and cultivation of good working relationships among biologists, managers, and maintenance staff. Beyond that, in on-site wetland situations, management should examine the existing hydrogeomorphic situation and processes (e.g., climatic variation, tides, riverine flood-pulse events) responsible for maintenance of ecosystem services within a given temporal framework appropriate for that wetland’s hydrologic pattern. We discuss these processes for five major wetland types (depressional, lacustrine, estuarine, riverine, and man-made impoundments) and then provide two case histories in which this approach was applied: Seney National Wildlife Refuge with a restored fen system and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge where riverine processes have been simulated to restore native habitat. With adequate partnerships and administrative and political support, managers faced with degraded and/or disconnected wetland processes will be able to restore ecosystem services for society in our highly altered landscape by considering wetlands in their given hydrogeomorphic setting and temporal stage.