Decomposition rates of a site-specific dominant litter, a standard litter (Typha latifolia), and cellulose were quantified in 10 western Kentucky wetlands using the litterbag technique. Short-term (60 and 42 days) incubations were conducted during fall 1998 and spring 1999. The effect of variable tissue nitrogen content on decomposition rates was evaluated by comparing mass loss among site-specific dominant species from each wetland. Effects of variable surface water and sediment nutrient concentrations on decomposition were assessed by measuring mass loss of standard litter materials (Typha latifolia and cellulose) of uniform C:N ratio. Decomposition of the site-specific dominant litter was significantly correlated with tissue C:N ratios and phosphorus concentrations in wetland waters and sediments. Water column and sediment phosphorus were also significant predictors of decomposition rates for the standard litter types. Nitrogen concentrations in surface waters were not significant predictors of decomposition for any of the substrates in either season. Wetlands impacted by mine drainage exhibited slower decomposition rates and lower nutrient levels in comparison to wetlands occurring in predominantly agricultural areas.