Evaluating Urban Wetland Restorations: Case Studies for Assessing Connectivity and Function

by Lisamarie WindhamMark S. Laska,² and Jennifer Wollenberg¹

¹Lehigh University, Earth Sciences Department, Bethlehem, PA 18015
²Great Eastern Ecology, Inc., 227 W. 17th Street, New York, NY 10011


Restoration of urban intertidal wetlands such as the Hackensack Meadowlands of New Jersey typically involves the return of tidal flow to diked or gated land, the removal of dredge spoils to lower elevations, and/or the replacement of invasive plant species (e.g., Phragmites australis) with preferred marsh plants. Restoration of preferred vegetation and hydrology is expected to net an overall improvement in habitat quality for fishery and wildlife species. Common metrics have been identified for evaluating the functional success of restoration on individual sites in urban wetlands. We argue, however, that alternative, larger-scale metrics are needed in order to monitor and evaluate the success of restoring functional connectivity to the patchwork of wetlands that compose urban estuarine systems. We present here a literature review of measurements that have been used in wetland restorations throughout the United States to assess restoration success of ecological functions at the ecosystem and/or landscape scale. Our goal is to stimulate discussion of alternative metrics to be included in future and ongoing assessments of urban restoration sites, especially those in the Meadowlands.