Given those benefits, the authors argue, decision-makers should assume that isolated wetlands are critical for protecting aquatic systems, and the burden of proof should be on those who argue on a case-by-case basis that individual wetlands need not be protected.
“Geographically isolated wetlands provide important benefits such as sediment and carbon retention, nutrient transformation and water-quality improvement, all of which are critical for maintaining water quality,” said lead author John M. Marton, assistant scientis
t at the IU Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “We demonstrate that continued loss of these wetlands would likely cause serious harm to North American waters.”
The article, “Geographically Isolated Wetlands Are Important Biogeochemical Reactors on the Landscape,” will appear in BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and is available online. Co-authors include Christopher B. Craft, the Janet Duey Professor in Rural Land Development with SPEA at IU Bloomington, along with researchers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the University of Western Ontario, the University of Waterloo, the University of Florida and the University of South Florida.
Geographically isolated wetlands are formed by natural forces that create depressions in the landscape, resulting in conditions suitable for wetland plants and soils. They include the prairie potholes of the upper Midwest, the playas of the Southwest, vernal pools in New England and California, and the Carolina Bays.
Citing research literature, the authors say geographically isolated wetlands are highly effective “biogeochemical reactors” that improve water quality. They often retain water longer than protected waters, such as streams and wetlands that are directly connected to navigable water. And they have a higher ratio of perimeter to area, allowing more opportunities for reactions to take place....
A vernal pool in the Totts Gap Preserve in Pennsylvania, shot by Nicholas A. Tonelli Nicholas A. Tonelli, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license