Wetland Science News

Deforestation not always bad news for wetlands

The University of Queensland News – November 17, 2014

Deforestation is both a boon and a bane for wetlands, according to new research by The University of Queensland. The study found that human impacts on the environment, such as deforestation, do not always have negative consequences, and can provide positive outcomes for biodiversity. Study author Dr Craig Woodward, from UQ’sSchool of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, said many wetlands of international importance were formed or expanded in response to human clearance of forests. “We found that deforestation can significantly increase the amount of water flowing into wetlands and can even create new wetlands,” he said. “In the past, wetland managers have focused mainly on how deforestation has increased catchment erosion and the transport of sediment and nutrients into wetlands. For full story, click here.

Everglades "River of Grass" to Flow Again - Experimentally

By Jon Campbell – USGS Science Features – November 4, 2014

The Everglades, a “River of Grass” as described by Florida writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas, once flowed unimpeded through a vast expanse of deep-water sloughs between sawgrass ridges and around tree islands to the Gulf of Mexico. Now the heart of the Everglades is disconnected by canals and levees and the sheet flow of water across the wetland is nearly imperceptible. How can the Everglades be reconnected and how much flow is needed? These are complex questions that are being addressed by careful modeling and assessments as a part of the congressionally authorized Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. For full blog post, click here.

Reversing Course on Beavers

By Tim Robbins – The New York Times – October 27, 2014 

Once routinely trapped and shot as varmints, their dams obliterated by dynamite and bulldozers, beavers are getting new respect these days. Across the West, they are being welcomed into the landscape as a defense against the withering effects of a warmer and drier climate. Beaver dams, it turns out, have beneficial effects that can’t easily be replicated in other ways. They raise the water table alongside a stream, aiding the growth of trees and plants that stabilize the banks and prevent erosion. They improve fish and wildlife habitat and promote new, rich soil. And perhaps most important in the West, beaver dams do what all dams do: hold back water that would otherwise drain away. For full story, click here.


In East Coast Marshes, Goats Take On a Notorious Invader

By Crystal Gammon – Environment360  – October 22, 2014

Over the past 30 years, land managers in the eastern U.S. and Canada have spent countless man-hours and millions of dollars trying to tame a pernicious, invasive reed known as Phragmites australis.  Originally from Europe, phragmites (pronounced “frag-MY-tees”) grows in dense, tall stands that choke off native vegetation and litter wetlands with thick mats of decaying biomass. Toxic herbicides, controlled burns, and even bulldozers have been the go-to solutions to the problem. But recent research out of Duke University suggests another, less aggressive fix: goats. Using an experimental wetlands site in Maryland, Brian Silliman, an ecologist with the Duke Marine Lab, found that goats were able to reduce phragmites cover by as much as 80 percent in a matter of weeks. For full story, click here.

Support for wetland restoration dramatically increased

By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch – Nola.com-The Times-Picayune – February 11, 2014 – Video

An survey commissioned by America's WETLAND Foundation shows that support for restoring coastal wetlands has increased dramatically in Louisiana over the past decade. The recent poll of 400 randomly sampled Louisiana voters also showed that concern was nearly bipartisan, with 85 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Independents agreeing that “saving our state’s coast is the most important issue of my lifetime.” For full story and to view video, click here.

In wake of drought and fires, turtle habitat becomes death trap

By Louis Sahagun Los Angeles Times October 4, 2014

Biologists strode along the cracked, dry mud surrounding this evaporating north Los Angeles County lake last week, pausing periodically to pick up an emaciated turtle and wash alkaline dust off its head and carapace. "A lot of these animals are severely ill and starving," said Tim Hovey, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, as he gestured toward a group of turtles bobbing in the murky water offshore. After three years of drought, this natural 2-mile-long lake, about 15 miles west of Lancaster, has become a smelly, alkaline death trap for one of the largest populations of state-protected Western pond turtles in Southern California. For full story, click here.

EPA Plans to Issue Health Advisories On Harmful Algal Blooms

By Amena H. Saiyid – Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs – October 1, 2014

The Environmental Protection Agency is aiming to issue by May 2015 drinking water health advisories for cyanobacteria, the harmful forms of blue-green algae that contaminated water supplies in Toledo, Ohio, and resulted in a weekend-long ban in early August, an agency official said Sept. 29. The agency is working on health advisories for microcystin L-R and cylindrospermopsin, with plans to have them out before the season of the harmful algal blooms begins next year, Betsy Southerland, director of the EPA Office of Science and Technology with the Office of Water, told participants at a Clean Water Act policy developments discussion in New Orleans. All three forms of cyanobacteria, or harmful algae blooms, release toxics. In particular, freshwater cyanobacterial blooms that produce highly potent cyanotoxins are known as cyanobacterial HABs (cyanoHABs). These species are capable of producing compounds that are hepatotoxic (affect the liver), neurotoxic (affect the nervous system) and acutely dermatotoxic (affect the skin), according to EPA. For full story, click here.