Chamaecyparis thyoides wetlands and suburbanization: effects on hydrology, water quality and plant community composition.
Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) wetlands in the New Jersey pinelands were studied at 18 sites along a gradient of suburban development defined by increasingly intrusive road and house construction close to the site. Water table level, water chemistry, plant species composition and community structure were recorded to assess the effects of increasing upland disturbance on adjacent wetlands. Water chemistry was most affected by septic tank drainage and road runoff. Hydrology was only affected by the presence of dams on the streams and by ditches dug in connection with stormwater sewage outfalls. Increasing levels of disturbance resulted in increasing loss of indigenous herbaceous species and increasing incursion of upland and exotic species. Changes in water quality were more important than changes in hydrology in determining changes in community composition and structure. The results suggest that the maximum buffer width provided for by law should be required for all upland development adjacent to white cedar wetlands.