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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.

SUBMITTER: Lewis KE 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC7083671 | BioStudies | 2020-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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