Wetland ecosystem health and biodiversity

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• Cropland expansion from 2008 to 2016 was mostly from losses of grassland (88%), with 3% losses from wetlands (a total of nearly 275,000 acres of wetlands, concentrated in the Prairie Pothole Region). Given the lack of national or regional datasets to track changes in RFS acreage, the extent of wetland losses directly attributable to the RFS cannot be more accurately estimated in the RtC3.

• Wetlands gains and losses are not distributed evenly across wetland types or sizes. Since 2007, the nation has lost 120.3 thousand acres of palustrine (marsh-like) wetlands and gained 205.9 thousand acres of lacustrine (lake-like) habitats in the conterminous United States. The diverse wetlands within these classes support different species and perform different ecosystem functions, including loss of functions that impact watershed hydrology, water quality, and water quantity.

• Small, seasonal wetlands are being lost at the fastest rate. The loss and consolidation of small wetlands to promote crop production has negatively impacted amphibians, invertebrates, and other aquatic species that depend on shallow water depths for reproduction. Shifts to longer hydroperiods in large or consolidated wetlands have more uniform (less diverse) invertebrate communities and can support fish that prey on insects and amphibians.

• Small wetlands and ponds are primary sources of water for aquifer recharge in the Northern Prairies. Recent studies in the Canadian portion of the Prairie Pothole Region found that while permanent ponds and wetlands are sources for recharge to aquifers, wetlands with surface water ponds that dry out every year play the dominant role in groundwater replenishment.

• While some Endangered Species Act-listed and other waterbirds have declined, waterfowl (ducks, geese, swans) as a group have not experienced declines over the past decade, possibly due to availability of food (grains), increased precipitation, and the interspersion of ponded waters and agricultural fields along migration routes.

• Shifts to corn and soybean production have resulted in more frequent application of chemicals, including pesticides and fertilizers. Increased usage of neonicotinoid insecticides is of particular concern because of their high toxicity to invertebrates, which are important food sources for wetland-dependent taxa.

• Evidence from the Prairie Pothole Region suggests that trends in larger wetland size, shifts to lakes and ponds (vs. vegetated wetlands), and prolonged and more frequent flooding are due to the combined effects of climate change and increased wetland ditching and consolidation. These trends are highly correlated with increased annual precipitation, which is projected to continue.

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Title Wetland ecosystem health and biodiversity
Chapter 14
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher U.S. Environmental Protectipn Agency
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description 50 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype Federal Government Series
Larger Work Title Third Triennial Report to Congress on Biofuels
First page 14-1
Last page 14-50
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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