A comparison of five wetland communities in a North Dakota fen complex.
Fens are rare and not well-studied within the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of North Dakota. PPR wetlands (including fens) are vulnerable to land use alterations, particularly conversion to agricultural production. In this study, we described a 48-ha natural fen complex with five distinct wetland plant communities (denoted cattail [Typha L. spp.], floating mat [areas at higher elevation with an upward groundwater gradient], herbaceous, tree, and wet meadow). Our goal was to describe the wetland plant communities and determine possible factors driving the formation of several distinct wetland plant communities in close proximity to one another. We identified 148 plant species, six of which are considered priorities for conservation by the North Dakota Natural Heritage Program. We compared the composition of wetland plant communities using multi-response permutation procedure (MRPP) and examined individual attributes (e.g., species richness, evenness, diversity, Floristic Quality Index, percent introduced species, percent soil organic matter, pH, and electrical conductivity) of the wetland plant communities using ANOVA and Tukey's (HSD) test. We found the highest species richness, evenness, and diversity in herbaceous and tree communities and the lowest percent introduced species in floating mat communities. There were no significant differences in the soil properties tested among the five plant communities.