Public-private partnership wetland restorations provide quality forage for waterfowl in northern New York.
The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and Wetlands Reserve Program are U.S. federal programs that provide financial and technical assistance to restore wetland habitats on private property, and are important tools for the conservation and management of waterfowl. This study examined whether these wetland restorations successfully restored one important component of waterfowl habitat, the availability of vegetative forage, at sites in the St. Lawrence River valley of New York. We conducted surveys at 47 restored and 18 reference wetlands to characterize the vegetation assemblage in terms of its value as forage for waterfowl. Results suggest that these public-private partnership wetland restorations develop assemblages of wetland vegetation that are similar to reference wetlands. Vegetation assemblage metrics, including estimates of species richness, the richness of species of food value, the Vegetative Forage Quality Index, and the cover of species of food value, did not differ between restored-reference wetland pairs. However, invasive species were common at sites, and we detected a negative association between the cover of invasive species and the Vegetative Forage Quality Index at both restored and reference wetlands. On the basis of these results, we conclude that Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and Wetland Reserve Program wetland restorations provide quality forage for breeding and migratory waterfowl in this region, but that the presence of invasive vegetation at sites has the potential to decrease the quality of vegetative forage at sites over time.