An Assessment of Long-Term Compliance with Performance Standards in Compensatory Mitigation Wetlands

Kyle Van den Bosch, Jeffrey W. Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Under the US Clean Water Act, wetland restoration is used to compensate for adverse impacts to wetlands. Following construction, compensation wetlands are monitored for approximately 5 years to determine if they comply with project-specific performance standards. Once a compensation site complies with performance standards, it is assumed that the site will continue to meet standards indefinitely. However, there have been few assessments of long-term compliance. We surveyed, in 2012, 30 compensation sites 8–20 years after restoration to determine whether projects continued to meet performance standards. Additionally, we compared floristic quality of compensation sites to the quality of adjacent natural wetlands to determine whether wetland condition in compensation sites could be predicted based on the condition of nearby wetlands. Compensation sites met, on average, 65% of standards during the final year of monitoring and 53% of standards in 2012, a significant decrease in compliance. Although forested wetlands often failed to meet standards for planted tree survival, the temporal decrease in compliance was driven by increasing dominance by invasive plants in emergent wetlands. The presumption of continued compliance with performance standards after a 5-year monitoring period was not supported. Wetlands restored near better quality natural wetlands achieved and maintained greater floristic quality, suggesting that landscape context was an important determinant of long-term restoration outcomes. Based on our findings, we recommend that compensation wetlands should be monitored for longer time periods, and we suggest that nearby or adjacent natural wetlands provide good examples of reasonably achievable restoration outcomes in a particular landscape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-556
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Compliance
  • Floristic quality
  • Monitoring
  • Vegetation
  • Wetland mitigation
  • Wetland restoration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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