A comparison of wetland characteristics between Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and public lands wetlands in West Virginia, USA.
ABSTRACT: In West Virginia, USA, there are 24 conservation easement program wetlands enrolled in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). These wetlands are located on private agricultural land and are passively managed. Due to their location within fragmented agricultural areas, wetlands enrolled in ACEP in West Virginia have the potential to add wetland ecosystem services in areas that are lacking these features. We evaluated ACEP wetlands compared to reference wetlands on public land in West Virginia by using surrounding land cover, vegetative cover, and wetland features and stressors such as the presence or absence of erosion, upland inclusion, algal mats, and evidence of impacts from the surrounding landscape as surrogate measurements of wetland function on 13 ACEP wetlands and 10 reference wetlands. ACEP wetlands had higher percentages of tree coverage and a higher proportion of agricultural land in the areas immediately surrounding the wetland. Reference wetlands had higher percent coverage of emergent vegetation and had a higher proportion of forest in the immediate landscape. Our findings suggest that ACEP wetlands provide valuable early successional and forested wetland cover in a state that is largely forested. Because of this, it is important to maintain and even expand ACEP in West Virginia to continue providing a valuable source of early successional wetland habitat.
Project description:Wetlands enrolled in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) are established as a means of restoring wetland ecosystems and wildlife habitat on private, agricultural land. In West Virginia, USA, ACEP wetlands have never been evaluated to determine how they function as wildlife habitat in comparison to other available wetland habitat in the state. We measured the wintering occupancy of Passerellidae species and apparent avian species richness on ACEP wetlands and a set of reference wetlands located on public land in West Virginia to evaluate if ACEP wetlands are being used similarly by avian species to other available wetland habitat in the state. Apparent avian species richness and the occupancy probability of four Passerellidae species-song sparrows (Melospiza melodia), dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis), swamp sparrows (Melospiza georgiana), and white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis)-did not differ between ACEP and reference sites. In addition to other vegetative and habitat associations for each species, dark-eyed junco occupancy was negatively correlated with wetland size while swamp sparrow occupancy and apparent avian species richness were positively associated with wetland size. These results indicate that ACEP wetlands are providing winter avian habitat as well as another source of wetland habitat in the state. Maintaining and expanding ACEP wetlands in West Virginia would continue to provide wetland systems in areas that are otherwise lacking these habitats.
Project description:Wetlands provide key functions in the landscape from improving water quality, to regulating flows, to providing wildlife habitat. Over half of the wetlands in the contiguous United States (CONUS) have been converted to agricultural and urban land uses. However, over the last several decades, research has shown the benefits of wetlands to hydrologic, chemical, biological processes, spurring the creation of government programs and private initiatives to restore wetlands. Initiatives tend to focus on individual wetland creation, yet the greatest benefits are achieved when strategic restoration planning occurs across a watershed or multiple watersheds. For watershed-level wetland restoration planning to occur, informative data layers on potential wetland areas are needed. We created an indicator of potential wetland areas (PWA), using nationally available datasets to identify characteristics that could support wetland ecosystems, including: poorly drained soils and low-relief landscape positions as indicated by a derived topographic data layer. We compared our PWA with the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) from 11 states throughout the CONUS to evaluate their alignment. The state-level percentage of NWI-designated wetlands directly overlapping the PWA ranged from 39 to 95%. When we included NWI that was immediately adjacent to the overlapping NWI, our range of correspondence to NWI ranged from 60 to 99%. Wetland restoration is more likely on certain landscapes (e.g., agriculture) than others due to the lack of substantive infrastructure and the potential for the restoration of hydrology; therefore, we combined the National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD) with the PWA to identify potentially restorable wetlands on agricultural land (PRW-Ag). The PRW-Ag identified a total of over 46 million ha with the potential to support wetlands. The largest concentrations of PRW-Ag occurred in the glaciated corn belt of the upper Mississippi River from Ohio to the Dakotas and in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. The PRW-Ag layer could assist land managers in identifying sites that may qualify for enrollment in conservation programs, where planners can coordinate restoration efforts, or where decision makers can target resources to optimize the services provided across a watershed or multiple watersheds.
Project description:The Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of the north-central U.S. and south-central Canada contains millions of small prairie wetlands that provide critical habitat to many migrating and breeding waterbirds. Due to their small size and the relatively dry climate of the region, these wetlands are considered at high risk for negative climate change effects as temperatures increase. To estimate the potential impacts of climate change on breeding waterbirds, we predicted current and future distributions of species common in the PPR using species distribution models (SDMs). We created regional-scale SDMs for the U.S. PPR using Breeding Bird Survey occurrence records for 1971-2011 and wetland, upland, and climate variables. For each species, we predicted current distribution based on climate records for 1981-2000 and projected future distributions to climate scenarios for 2040-2049. Species were projected to, on average, lose almost half their current habitat (-46%). However, individual species projections varied widely, from +8% (Upland Sandpiper) to -100% (Wilson's Snipe). Variable importance ranks indicated that land cover (wetland and upland) variables were generally more important than climate variables in predicting species distributions. However, climate variables were relatively more important during a drought period. Projected distributions of species responses to climate change contracted within current areas of distribution rather than shifting. Given the large variation in species-level impacts, we suggest that climate change mitigation efforts focus on species projected to be the most vulnerable by enacting targeted wetland management, easement acquisition, and restoration efforts.
Project description:Concordance among wetland physicochemical conditions, vegetation, and surrounding land cover may result from the influence of land cover on the sources of plant propagules, on physicochemical conditions, and their subsequent determination of growing conditions. Alternatively, concordance may result if differences in climate, soils, and species pools are spatially confounded with differences in human population density and land conversion. Further, we expect that land cover within catchment boundaries will be more predictive than land cover in symmetrical buffers if runoff is a major pathway. We measured concordance between land cover, wetland vegetation and physicochemical conditions in 48 prairie pothole wetlands, controlling for inter-wetland distance. We contrasted land-cover data collected over a four-year period by multiple extraction approaches including topographically-delineated catchments and nested 30 m to 5,000 m radius buffers. After factoring out inter-wetland distance, physiochemical conditions were significantly concordant with land cover. Vegetation was not significantly concordant with land cover, though it was strongly and significantly concordant with physicochemical conditions. More, concordance was as strong when land cover was extracted from buffers <500 m in radius as from catchments, indicating the mechanism responsible is not topographically constrained. We conclude that local landscape structure does not directly influence wetland vegetation composition, but rather that vegetation depends on 1) physicochemical conditions in the wetland that are affected by surrounding land cover and on 2) regional factors such as the vegetation species pool and geographic gradients in climate, soil type, and land use.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Natural wetlands can mitigate ongoing increases in atmospheric carbon by storing any net balance of organic carbon (peat) between plant production (carbon uptake) and microbial decomposition (carbon release). Efforts are ongoing to quantify peat carbon stored in global wetlands, with considerable focus given to boreal/subarctic peatlands and tropical peat swamps. Many wetlands in temperate latitudes have been transformed to anthropogenic landscapes, making it difficult to investigate their natural/historic carbon balance. The remaining temperate swamps and marshes are often treated as mineral soil wetlands and assumed to not accumulate peat. Southern Ontario in the Laurentian Great Lakes drainage basin was formerly a wetland-rich region that has undergone significant land use change since European settlement.<h4>Results</h4>This study uses southern Ontario as a case study to assess the degree to which temperate regions could have stored substantial carbon if it had not been for widespread anthropogenic land cover change. Here, we reconstruct the full extent and distribution of natural wetlands using two wetland maps, one for pre-settlement conditions (prior to 1850 CE) and the other for modern-day patterns of land use (2011 CE). We found that the pre-settlement wetland cover decreased by about 56% with the loss most significant for marshes as only 11% of predicted pre-settlement marshland area remains today. We estimate that pre-settlement wetlands held up to ~?3.3 Pg of carbon relative to ~?1.3 Pg for present-day (total across all wetland classes).<h4>Conclusions</h4>By not considering the recent carbon loss of temperate wetlands, we may be underestimating the wetland carbon sink in the pre-industrial carbon cycle. Future work is needed to better track the conversion of natural wetlands globally and the associated carbon stock change.
Project description:In the USA, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has restored millions of acres of wetlands through its Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) programs. However, few quantitative studies have explored whether WREs have enhanced wetland hydrology and wetland plant communities. Additionally, USDA Compatible Use Permits for cattle grazing and other management practices are sometimes issued for WREs, but little is known about potential benefits/detriments of such practice on the success of wetland restoration. In this study, we tested if hydrological restoration of previously drained species poor pastures increased water depth and hydroperiod. Restoration involved plugging key ditches, adding water control structures and a berm. We also tested if hydrological restoration increased plant diversity (alpha and beta), floristic quality (using coefficient of conservatism) and increased the cover of wetland species (using species wetland status). Finally, we tested if cattle grazing had an effect on the success of restoration by comparing grazed plots to fenced plots. We studied two conservation easements (a total of 748 acres) located on semi-native pastures in central Florida, USA. We monitored vegetation using permanent transects stratified by vegetation type before (2004-2005) and after (2012) the restoration (2008). We assessed wetland hydroperiod using groundwater wells set up in 2003 and located within and outside the boundaries of these two easements. We used linear mixed models and multivariate analyses to compare vegetation and hydroperiods pre- and post-restoration. Number of flooded days increased following restoration in one of the easements, but we did not detect significant changes in hydrology in the other easement. Floristic quality, beta diversity and cover of obligate wetland species increased in both conservation easements and in most vegetation types. These vegetation changes were likely due to restoration activities since annual rainfall was not significantly different pre- and post-restoration. Cattle grazing did not have a negative or positive effect on the success of restoration, nor did we detect any positive effect of grazing on the success of restoration. Overall, our study shows that hydrological restoration can enhance wetland hydroperiod, water depth and wetland vegetation, but more resources should be allocated to short- and long-term monitoring of the restoration success.
Project description:Cadmium, present locally in naturally high concentrations in the Northern Plains of the United States, is of concern because of its toxicity, carcinogenic properties, and potential for trophic transfer. Reports of natural concentrations in soils are dominated by dryland soils with agricultural land uses, but much less is known about cadmium in wetlands. Four wetland categories - prairie potholes, shallow lakes, riparian wetlands, and river sediments - were sampled comprising more than 300 wetlands across four states, the majority in North Dakota. Cd, Zn, P, and other elements were analyzed by ICP-MS, in addition to pH and organic matter (as loss-on-ignition). The overall cadmium content was similar to the general concentrations in the area's soils, but distinct patterns occurred within categories. Cd in wetland soils is associated with underlying geology and hydrology, but also strongly with concentrations of P and Zn, suggesting a link with agricultural land use surrounding the wetlands.
Project description:Wetland ecosystems have been globally degraded and lost due to rapid urbanization and climate change. An assessment of national scale inventory, including wetland types and conditions, is urgently required to understand the big picture of endangered wetlands, such as where they are and how they look like. We analyzed the spatial patterns of each inland wetland type (brackish wetland was included) in South Korea and the relative importance of land cover categories on wetland conditions. The wetlands were grouped into four dominant types (riverine, lake, mountain, and human-made) according to their topography. Riverine wetlands constituted the largest area (71.3%). The relative ratio of wetlands in a well-conserved condition (i.e., "A" rank) was highest in riverine wetlands (23.8%), followed by mountain wetlands (22.1%). The higher proportion of grasslands was related to a better condition ranking, but the increasing bareland area had a negative impact on wetland conditions. We also found that wetlands located near wetland protected areas tend to be in a better condition compared to remote sites. Our results further support the importance of the condition of surrounding areas for wetland conservation.
Project description:Information on nonbreeding waterbirds using created wetlands in the Central Appalachian region of the United States is limited. We compared waterbird communities of two managed wetlands, created in 2013 and 2001, in West Virginia. We observed 27 species of waterbirds. Species richness and diversity were generally similar between the wetlands, but species composition and use differed. <i>Branta canadensis</i> (Canada Geese), <i>Anas strepera</i> (Gadwall), <i>Bucephala albeola</i> (Buffleheads), <i>Aythya affinis</i> (Lesser Scaup), and <i>Aythya collaris</i> (Ring-Necked Ducks) used the older wetland most frequently. Disparities in species use were the highest in March. The older wetland differed from the younger in supporting species such as diving ducks, possibly due to differences in size, vegetation, water depth, and microtopography. However, the ability to provide habitat for waterbirds during the winter was determined to be comparable between wetlands, despite their age difference.
Project description:Malaria is a major global public health problem, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The spatial heterogeneity of malaria can be affected by factors such as hydrological processes, physiography, and land cover patterns. Tropical wetlands, for example, are important hydrological features that can serve as mosquito breeding habitats. Mapping and monitoring of wetlands using satellite remote sensing can thus help to target interventions aimed at reducing malaria transmission. The objective of this study was to map wetlands and other major land cover types in the Amhara region of Ethiopia and to analyze district-level associations of malaria and wetlands across the region. We evaluated three random forests classification models using remotely sensed topographic and spectral data based on Shuttle Radar Topographic Mission (SRTM) and Landsat TM/ETM+ imagery, respectively. The model that integrated data from both sensors yielded more accurate land cover classification than single-sensor models. The resulting map of wetlands and other major land cover classes had an overall accuracy of 93.5%. Topographic indices and subpixel level fractional cover indices contributed most strongly to the land cover classification. Further, we found strong spatial associations of percent area of wetlands with malaria cases at the district level across the dry, wet, and fall seasons. Overall, our study provided the most extensive map of wetlands for the Amhara region and documented spatiotemporal associations of wetlands and malaria risk at a broad regional level. These findings can assist public health personnel in developing strategies to effectively control and eliminate malaria in the region.Remote sensing produced an accurate wetland map for the Ethiopian highlandsWetlands were associated with spatial variability in malaria riskMapping and monitoring wetlands can improve malaria spatial decision support.